Should you develop a Mobile App for your business?

The recent news that Yahoo purchased Internet App “Summly” from 17-year-old London school boy Nick D’Aloisio for $30 million has generated new excitement around smart phone apps and the opportunities they present.   The $30 million app in question, “Summly”, provides summaries of news items from other websites, designed to fit neatly on a smart phone screen. 

Although selling an app to Yahoo may not be in your business plan, there are many opportunities now to create apps to connect with and support customers, as well as help your staff be more efficient on the job.   Let’s take a look at some of the options for your business.

App creation and deployment

Apps are typically created for the iPhone/iPad (Apple) and android (Google) operating systems.  Other independent platforms are also available for deployment to multiple mobile devices.  Typically an app will be downloaded from an app store, for free or at a cost, with a link to the store provided from your website.    

Typically you will need to employ an app developer or development company to create an app for you.  There are also numerous App Kits available for creating straight forward apps without programming knowledge.

Some Ideas for Business Apps

Here are some mobile app ideas to get you started about what could be a relevant app for your business.   Most of those listed are straight forward to develop using template apps.

  • Outlet locations and directions via Google maps apps e.g. find your nearest coffee.
  • Food ordering app – order a pizza, etc online from home or while waiting in line.
  • Online store app – mobile shopping in a more friendly way than browser on mobile.
  • Mobile reservations app.
  • Game apps with vouchers for completing levels.
  • Loyalty programs & coupon apps.
  • Music and video players around content relevant to your business.
  • Event and seminar apps – full details of an event, speakers including bookings.
  • Business and product information app e.g. relevant specifications, etc.
  • Custom calculators and statistics charts.
  • Blogs, ebook apps around your specific business niche.
  • Support centre / help-file apps.

An App Versus a Mobile Ready Website

A common question is, why not simply make my website mobile ready rather than developing an app?  It is true that it is now important to ensure your website is mobile and smart phone ready, as many more users are accessing websites using their mobile devices.  This means having a website that is “responsive”, in that it can resize to fit a small screen, or switch from your main site to a mobile, scaled down version.

An app is a completely different animal from a mobile ready website, in that it is an application, does not run in the browser and allows for highly customised programming and functions that utilise the underlying hardware of the device to its full potential.   In an app, the user experience can be custom controlled, dedicated to your business, without users browsing off to other websites.

So how do I create an App that is worth downloading?

Here are some tips for making your app a great success:

  • Great design and usability are key, so ensure you choose an app developer that has a great track record.
  • Keep it simple and don’t include too many ideas or options.  Focus on a core idea and make it great!
  • The mobile app must solve a problem the user cares about and can’t already be done easily using a web browser.
  • When appropriate, ensure your app provides notifications to users (otherwise they will forget about using your app!)
  • Continue to refine and develop your idea with user feedback after launch.
  • Have a clear goal for your app, is it to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty?  Whatever the business goal of the app, ensure you measure the outcome.

Final Words

Apps are currently dominating the mobile market, with a recent survey reporting that 80% of time on smart phones is dedicated to apps (and not web browsers!).  An app could be an important addition to your marketing arsenal or business operations.  From the marketing perspective, an app can be a gamble, in that often you won’t know what consumers will latch on to and use.  So ensure you do your research on what problem you can solve for your customer with your app, and then ensure you progressively refine and develop the app after its launch.

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