You finally got your small business website up and running, and now everyone else seems to have an app. Does your business need one, too?
Apps can boost customer engagement and loyalty. They can make it easier for customers to hit the "buy now" button, and they enable you to send coupons and notifications directly to your customers' phones. Even seeing the app icon on their phone helps build brand awareness.
But just because apps have benefits doesn't mean launching an app is the right choice for your business. The app field is crowded: In late 2018, more than 2.1 million apps were available through Google Play for Android users, and 2 million were offered by the Apple App Store.
According to Localytics, 21 percent of users abandon an app after only one use. At the other end of the user spectrum, 38 percent of app users return to an app 11 times or more.
Here are five things to ask yourself if you are considering creating an app for your small business.
1. Do you have a mobile responsive website?
In 2018, more than half of all website traffic worldwide was generated by mobile phones. This means that you need a well-functioning mobile responsive website before you even begin to think about an app.
Mobile responsive websites automatically change the layout of your web pages so they are easy to view from either a desktop computer or a phone. Take a good look at how your website performs on mobile phones and tablets. If it's not a breeze to view and navigate, you're due for an upgrade. Fortunately, major website platforms like Shopify and Wordpress offer templates and themes with mobile responsiveness baked in.
2. What is your competition doing?
If you're losing business to competitors because you don't have an app, then that's a potential reason to develop one. For example, if you offer takeout food, your customers may be relying on fast casual chains because they can order ahead and pay from an app.
If your competitors are using apps, go to the App or Android store online and look at the features of their apps, the number of downloads, and the user reviews. If your competitors have well-received apps, you may need one to keep up. Also look for opportunities for your app to offer additional features or to function better than what your competitors currently offer.
3. Can your app solve a customer problem?
Your customers want apps that make their lives easier. They don't want to download an app just to get your current coupons. The Starbucks app, for example, lets you order online, find a Starbucks near you, save your favorite custom drinks, collect and track rewards points, and store a digital gift card. It's designed to make it as easy as possible for you to choose Starbucks for your next latte.
In thinking about an app, choose a problem or inconvenience your customers have. Then find a way your app can solve that issue.
4. Will your app boost sales?
The benefits of your app should justify the cost of setting one up. A profitable app will help your customers engage with your business and make transactions. For example, one problem with e-commerce mobile websites is that it can be tedious for customers to enter shipping and credit card information on a small phone screen. Apps can store customer data, making it more likely that your app users will actually make a purchase.
Apps also can allow you to send push notifications to your customers' phones. The Localytics data showed that 46 percent of customers who opt in to push use an app 11 or more times.
5. Do you have the time and money to create a good app?
With template sites like Squarespace or Wix, you can create a mobile responsive website by yourself with a couple days' effort. App creation is more complicated, especially if you want the kind of functionality and user experience that will really get your customers excited.
The cost of building an app depends on the features you want and whether your app will be for Android, IOS, or both. But you are likely to spend a minimum of $10,000, and a fully-featured app can cost well over $100,000. There also will be added expenses for updates and maintenance to keep your app functioning properly.
A well-designed app can help your small business build a loyal following. But before you jump on the app bandwagon, make sure that your app will help your customers and that you have a strategy for using it to boost your bottom line.
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