Which Small Businesses Should Build Apps

    [This article was written by Riley Panko.] 

    As of March 2017, Android smartphone users could choose from 2.8 billion apps in Google Play. Apple’s App Store offered 2.2 million apps to iPhone owners. These numbers have only grown in the past year.

    As the number of apps increases, small businesses may feel pressure to build an app to keep up with competition, attract new customers, or increase sales. Other entrepreneurs may be eyeing a mobile app as the cornerstone of a new business.

    However, there are good and bad reasons to build mobile apps. How can a small business know if they are building an app for the right reason?

    Using new data and expert commentary this article offers advice to small businesses currently debating if they should or should not build a mobile app.

    Your small business should not build a mobile app if –

    1. You want to attract new customers.

    Have you ever mindlessly browsed an app store for any old app? Likely not. The app store isn’t conducive to browsing, and most people seek out apps for a specific purpose.

    However, a new survey on small business apps says the largest percentage of small businesses did build a mobile app to attract new customers.

    This is a mistake.

    “The app store is terrible for discovery,” explained Woody Zantzinger, vice president of business development at WillowTree, a mobile app development agency. “It’s hard to search for applications. There are 2 million apps on the Apple App Store. There are thousands added every day.”

    Building a mobile app purely to attract new customers won’t work. You will need to spend significant money simply marketing the app to people who haven’t heard of your business, which will likely negate the cost benefits of the app.

    2. The mobile app will be the sole component of your business.

    Most successful apps are one part of a larger system.

    If you plan to build your entire business around a mobile app, you may struggle.

    “If your app is going to be the sole piece of your digital business, it’s probably not going to do much,” said Zantzinger. “If you don’t have a website or you have a very limited website and you don’t have a digital component to your business as a whole, I’m not sure there’s a point in having an app.”

    Instead, mobile apps can benefit an already existing system.

    “They’re most effective when they integrate with an existing system, whether that’s POS systems or inventory management,” said Zantzinger.

    Your small business should build a mobile app if –

    1. You want to build better relationships with existing customers.

    Are you a small business with a loyal cohort of customers? Perhaps you’re looking for new ways to build up your relationship with those customers. This is when a mobile app is very useful.

    “When I think of a mobile app, companies with a lot of repeat customers benefit the most,” said Zantzinger. “If you’re going to have an app that lives ever-present on someone’s phone, it provides businesses with new marketing opportunities to reach out to customers again and again.”

    A mobile app can host a rewards program, which can entice customers to keep coming back for more. Push notifications can alert your customers of the newest discount or promotion.

    While using an app can be hard for attracting new customers, using it to encourage more business from repeat customers often works well.

    1. You’ve carefully analyzed your small business’s need for a mobile app.

    If you’ve very carefully analyzed your small business’s need for a mobile app and determined that it’s absolutely a positive venture, then you can go ahead and build one.

    Mobile apps aren’t something to be hurried, or something to jump into spontaneously. Building a mobile app requires a large investment in both time and money.

    In fact, a recent survey by The Manifest discussed how an app can range anywhere from less than $25,000 to over $100,000 (and more).

    Peter Mezyk, chief operating officer at Nomtek, a mobile app development agency, discussed a list of steps every small business should go through to determine if an app is a good investment:

    1. Reflect on your customer journey and determine if any customer touchpoints can be enhanced by a mobile app.
    2. Determine the goals for your mobile app and assess whether it will truly benefit your business.
    3. Set specific metrics (number of email signups, number of coupons redeemed, etc.) that will measure if your app is an actual success.
    4. Build the simplest and cheapest possible version of the app first.
    5. If that version of the app is on track to meet your metrics, continue building out the app.

    “The more rigorously you assess whether to invest or not to invest in a mobile app, the better,” said Mezyk.

    Is a Mobile App Right For Your Small Business?

    Do not be duped into a building a mobile app that will be a large investment, and will not benefit your business. Be sure to properly analyze if the app is a positive venture, and build a mobile app for the right reasons.

    Author Bio:

    Riley Panko is a Senior Content Developer and Marketer at Clutch, a Washington, D.C.-based research, ratings and reviews platform for B2B services. She conducts relevant research that aims to help consumers enhance their business and select the services and software best-suited to their needs.

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