Apps are incredibly popular, with overnight successes seeing millions of downloads and even moderately successful apps opening the doors to new customers and new revenue opportunities. As a result, many businesses have considered creating an app, either to increase customer loyalty or to attract new customers to the brand. However, while apps can be valuable, creating an app is not always necessary.
Determining whether or not to create an app can be challenging, but it's a decision that more companies are facing. The cost of designing and developing an app can be high, especially if you prioritize quality, and the overall value to your users can range from negligible to highly significant. Consider the factors below as you make your decision, and remember that every business will have different needs.
The main reason why businesses feel pressured to create their own apps is user demand. Apps are extremely popular and can easily spread through word of mouth, and many users are relying on apps more than conventional web access to find information for their favorite brands. However, the sheer popularity of apps in general is not the best way to determine whether or not your company should create one.
Think about how your customers would use the app. Is there a specific function you would enable or make easier by developing an app? If not, your app would essentially be a glorified web page. That isn't always a bad thing, but it defeats the purpose of creating an app and could prevent you from achieving any noticeable increase in user engagement or brand visibility. As a rule of thumb, your app should let users do something different or let them do something better--if it doesn't, or if it can't, it's rarely worth trying to develop one.
The Benefits of Having an App
Even if your app doesn't have some revolutionary function, there are some real benefits to having your own app:
Increased Brand Visibility
The big benefit here is that your brand is going to be seen more often by more people. Simply listing your app in the app store can increase the number of eyes that encounter your brand on a regular basis. Once downloaded on a device, users will see your app every time they turn that device on, giving them a nice top-of-mind reminder that could eventually lead to a sale. Plus, if your app becomes radically popular, you'll earn a host of new customers from word-of-mouth spreading alone.
A Specific Communication Channel With Your Customers
Rather than using email marketing or social media, you can use your app as a direct line of communication with your customers. You can send messages, provide value, and even use branded advertising in the context of typical app usage to get more information to your customers.
The Competitive Edge
Imagine two very similar companies with one core difference; one has an app and the other doesn't. That small difference could lead to a discrepancy in reputation, and lead more people to one over the other. If all of your competitors already have apps out, it might be worth creating one to keep up with the pack. If none of your competitors have apps, you could gain a huge competitive edge by producing and releasing one.
A Possible Revenue Stream
Depending on whether you're going to charge for your app and whether you'll offer in-app purchases, your app could be a potential revenue stream on its own. It's worth considering, especially if you're concerned about directly measuring the value of your app.
App-Based SEO Benefits
Currently, there are some advantages to having a mobile app from an SEO perspective. Google is able to index apps the same way it indexes web pages; it can discover links and mentions of your app, gather the information, and present your app in relevant search results. The tie to your brand means your domain will see higher authority, but the real benefit here is for the app itself. Users will be able to find your app more easily, even if they've never heard of it before, if it shows up for relevant searches. Creating an app for the sake of SEO doesn't make sense, but if you do have an app you can use it to increase traffic.
The Future of Apps
Apps are here to stay. They aren't a phenomenon tied with smartphones and tablets; the next generation of devices are already impending in the form of wearable technology like smart watches. This new generation of tech is already starting to adopt the traditional app-based approach, and users will be even more drawn to apps over typical web experiences because of wearable technology's small screen size and apps' ease of use.
That being said, the value of your app can't simply be measured in terms of what it can do for you today. You must also consider what it can do for you in the future. Since the world has already shifted significantly toward the direction of relying on apps more than web browsers and that trend is likely to continue, it may be worthwhile to get an app now and stay ahead of the curve.
Cost to Benefit
Ultimately, your decision should be boiled down to a simple cost-to-benefit ratio. If you were to create an app for your company, what would it do? Knowing that, how much money would it take to develop? How much value would your users get from it (and be sure to back up this question with real data from user surveys)? Compare the projected cost to the projected benefits, and therein you'll find an answer. There's no immediate "yes" or "no" that can apply to any one type of company. Instead, you'll have to examine your own unique situation and determine the most logical path forward.