Apps are everywhere. From your phone to your tablet to your desktop computer, businesses of all types are offering easy-to-download applications to make your life easier.
If your business runs a little better with technology’s help, you might be tempted to develop an app of your own. Or you might have been approached by a company that claims having an app for your business will be critical for increasing sales and/or customer engagement.
Before you start designing your company’s mobile app, consider a few important questions.
Do you need it?
Think about what an app can do -- accept payments, complete registrations, enhance engagement, allow for a bit of fun. Which of those functions, if any, would benefit your business?
Can the same be accomplished with a mobile-ready website? If the functions you’d like an app to serve are fairly straightforward, a mobile site might be all you need to encourage customers to complete tasks on their devices. A mobile-friendly format might even drive potential customers to learn more about you on their phones, rather than bookmarking your site to check out later on their laptops.
An app can make the hard work you put into your web design and functionality redundant. And if there’s no clear function that makes an app different and better from your mobile site, it’s probably not necessary.
Do your customers need it?
How many apps do you have on your phone for the individual businesses you visit? How many of them did you download, use once, and forget about?
A forgotten app is worse than one that never existed. Your customers need a clear reason to use your app, either for enhanced convenience or to unlock special features.
For instance, if you operate a yoga, dance or martial arts studio, an app may help your customers sign up for classes on the go, potentially increasing your class attendance rate.
If you have a dog grooming studio, massage therapy practice or hair salon, an app may help clients schedule appointments quickly and easily—right when they remember they want to book a service. An app may duplicate the scheduling service you offer on your website but make it easier for device fiends to follow through with their intent to visit your business.
An app can also make it easy for customers to track a rewards program or special offers. Instead of fussing with stamp cards, an app can track and manage customer visits.
Can you afford it?
If you’re contracting out the development and design of an app, you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 (for a bare-bones app that doesn’t offer much functionality) to $500,000 (for fully-featured app with a beautiful design, unique and compelling content and flawless functionality). App development can easily approach the $100,000 range, depending on complexity. Bells and whistles are expensive!
If you’re especially tech-savvy and plan to develop an app in-house, you’ll have to consider the time your employees will spend on such a project. It’s not just about the hours they get paid to work on the project -- it’s also about the time they spend away from other work.
Once your app has launched, it’s going to need care. You’ll need to publish updates and squash bugs. Who will take care of those tasks? An outside developer may require a retainer agreement to maintain your app. Meanwhile, your in-house team may need to work quickly to react to tech developments that require adapting your product.
If you want to discuss the best mobile options for your business, contact a SCORE mentor. They’ll be happy to help review your options and guide you toward technology investments that will help your business grow.