Stick It Up Your App: Do you need a mobile app, or nah?

Riley Cullen – Copywriter

As technology becomes more innovative and intuitive, business professionals and leaders will never fail to find new ways to use it. Certain apps for businesses have been wildly successful, making many owners wonder, “Do I need an app?” That’s not an insane question to ask since most smartphone users spend literal hours out of every day staring at the tiny computers we keep in our pockets next to the old cough drop wrappers and lint.

One study published in May of last year on did some research. After compiling the information they gathered, they postulated that people spend an average of 4 hours per day looking at their cell phones. At that rate, the average person spends almost two years of their life just on YouTube. Most of this screen time can be attributed to unconscious habits, like when you check the time on your phone, then you open up Facebook and scroll for a couple minutes, then you realize that “a couple minutes” has turned into an hour so you shut it off and get back to work only to realize that you forgot to check the f%*king time in the first place so now you have to look again. However, a lot of it is spent doing other things like researching products or buying items for yourself and your home. And, as suggested by the title of this blog, much of that time is spent using a specific set of apps. So, is it worth it to invest in creating an app for your business?

On one hand, some apps can be extremely beneficial. Apps like Spotify, Netflix, and MLB At Bat make revenue through their subscription services, while others, like Pokemon Go or Candy Crush rely heavily on advertising to make money. In all of these cases, making an app also made money! Each of those apps independently grossed at least $251,000 (MLB At Bat), and some made over $15 million (Pokemon Go) in the last year according to Priceonomics: a company specializing in data collection, analysis, and reporting. Clearly, having an app can be beneficial for some business models. Unfortunately, not every idea is a winner, which you probably already know from that one cousin who is always asking for “a small investment for this new start-up I’m working on” at holidays. (Side note: Jake, I’m not investing in Meow-Staches: Clip-On Mustaches for Cats. Cats already have mustaches; it’s called fur.)

On the other hand, creating an app is a fickle business. If you’re on the fence about creating an app for your company, you should be. According to Tim Shepherd, a senior analyst at Canalys who was interviewed by The Guardian, about ⅔ of the apps available in the app store got less than 1,000 downloads in their first year, and most die off after that initial run. Many of those, he continued, never get any downloads at all. So if you’re thinking about investing in an app, you should do your research on just how beneficial one could be. Only kidding, we did that for you! Here’s a quick list of a few good reasons to create an app, and a list of a few good reasons to skip that idea. So, do you need a mobile app? Find out today on “Riley researches whatever Andrew tells her to.”

The Case For the App

  • Promotional Use: That app you made? It’s visible to your customers for a lot of that 4 hour window they spend sucked into the matrix. Not to mention you can send specific, tailored messages through your platform which will appeal to your customers. Basically, apps are a way for you to stand with a promotional sign on your customer’s phone and advocate for your business FOREVER.
  • Speaking of Your Customers, Get to Know Them: The data you’ll collect using an app can prove invaluable. From deciding what products or services to alter, to providing inspiration for future endeavors, apps can help you understand what your customers want. From there, you can figure out how to give it to them.
  • Use Cell Phone Functionality to Your Advantage: Apps allow you to send users push notifications at specific times or when they are in specific locations. For example, a cell phone’s geolocation system can be used to remind a user who’s in your area that you exist and they should choose you for the goods or services they need. Apps can also improve customer engagement in other ways, like by asking consumers to rate products or to use their phone camera to snap a pic of something from your brand that they’ve purchased and love!

The Case Against the App

  • Your Site Does It Better: Having an app can be extraneous for a business whose customers don’t actually need the increased functionality. As long as your site is mobile friendly, there’s a good chance the goods and services you offer don’t need their own app.
  • Apps are Expensive: Because they need to be compatible with both iOS and Android (no one uses anything else. Don’t kid yourself, Blackberry), it’ll take lots of time, debugging, and money to make an app that’s worth its salt. Before undergoing all that extra work, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear vision of if and how users will actually utilize your platform. If you can’t come up with a few specific functions the app will have that users can’t already get through your site, nix the app.
  • You’re Not as Cool as You Think: Sorry to break it to you. If you’re going to invest in creating an app, you want to create a following of users who will utilize the platform regularly. Chances are, that’s not you. Sure, an app can be useful, but even your most loyal customers will delete it as soon as they see the “Storage Almost Full” reminder if they don’t use it often. Remember those apps that never got any downloads? Those are people who thought they needed an app and clearly did not.

So does your business need an app? Probably not, but maybe. Ultimately, that choice is up to you. Just make sure you do your research and create the innovative functionality users expect, or you can take all the hard work and money you’ve put into the project and stick it straight up your app.