Does your business need a mobile app?

A mobile app could be the missing ingredient to your business’ recipe for success. Find out why.

Think of a service you use, whether it’s daily, monthly or yearly. Chances are there’s an app for it. Apps can be a great way to keep your business top of mind and improve the service you provide, but there’s more to it than just creating and sending an app out into the world. Before you decide to create an app or not, there are some things you should consider. We’ve spelt them out below so, whether you make one or not, you can be confident it's the right decision for your business.

Why should I consider an app?

First of all, the popularity of apps is booming – and it makes sense when you consider that mobile phone usage is on the rise. In Q3 of 2021, people in Europe spent 21.6% more time on apps than the previous quarter, and this is only increasing. By joining the app space, you’re putting your business in front of a growing audience of potential customers. Plus, if your app’s easy to use and full of interesting information and features, this could mean great things for your business. Here’s why.

Apps are a direct channel between you and your customer

If a customer has your app, they can easily browse and purchase products without having to surf the web or go to a store. What’s more, there’s no likelihood of them encountering competitor ads, or other disruptions to the customer journey. So, an app becomes a direct marketing channel between you and the user; especially since you can send push notifications with reminders of offers, launches, events, or even just to tell them the app’s still there, if your customers have opted in.

Apps can improve your customer experience

As a business owner, you know how important providing value to your customer is. An app can help you do this. It’s a great place to host loyalty schemes, for example, letting customers collect points and claim rewards in-app. This doesn’t only provide a great incentive for downloading the app, but it can also help create loyal, repeat customers – every business owner's dream. Customer service can be hosted within an app too, giving users an easy way to seek help. Depending on your budget and resource, you could provide a live chat feature, FAQs, and anything else you can think of to show you’re a helpful, customer-centric business. You could even let your customers give you direct feedback in-app too. There's no better way to meet their needs, keep them happy, and keep them coming back than hearing exactly what they think needs improving. Plus, by looking at the app’s analytics, you can understand your buyers better. Look behind the scenes to see how they’re engaging with the software, then adjust to meet their needs and provide a better service.

That’s why knowing your customer well is crucial. You’ve got to consider if your target and existing audience are comfortable using smartphones. If they aren’t, investing in an app might not be the best way to reach them, and the time and budget could be better used elsewhere. So, make sure to do some extensive market research to fully understand your buyer, and meet them where they need you to be – whether that’s in an app, or not. Last, but not least, making sure you have the budget to make – and maintain – a high-quality app is essential because there’s no point having an app for the sake of it. You’ve got to invest money and time researching, testing, and optimising to make sure it’s user-friendly. So, if you can’t afford to spend this budget and time (or hire someone else to) it might not be the right moment to create an app.

Your guide to building a mobile app for your business

So, now you've decided your business needs an app. The good news is it doesn’t have to be a long, complex process and you don’t have to learn to code (unless you want to.) There are loads of app development platforms and app experts out there to help you. Now while there’s no one-size-fits all approach to building an app, there are a few things to consider before you – or an app builder you’ve chosen – get to work.

Before making the jump to creating an app, it’s worth deciding which features you’d include. Think about your business goals and decide which additions could help you meet those goals. There are infinite features an app could have, but we think it’s better to offer a handful and do them well, than offer lots of poorly executed, glitchy options. Remember that an app’s meant to make life easier, not more difficult.

How much does it cost to create an app?

The answer to this question will differ for everyone depending on who’s building it, what features it’ll have, how long it takes, and how much aftercare’s needed, including testing, updating and marketing it. So, first things first, think about how much budget you can realistically put into the process, then think about the following...

What features should my app have?

We’re fans of competitor and market research, every step of the way along your business’ journey. If you haven’t already, do some thorough research into your target audience. Understand how they like to shop, what they like to read or watch, what makes them tick and the problems they have, and work out how your app could provide solutions. This should shed some light on the kind of features that will and won’t interest them. Next, why not learn from your competitors’ mistakes? Chances are some of them have apps already, so download and test them, and see what does/doesn’t work well. Look at apps outside your industry too, from a technical perspective. That way you can get a better feel for different app features, pick and choose the best from each, and fill any gaps left by your competitors.

Who can design and build my app?

Now you’ve outlined the features you need, you can decide who’s going to create your app. First things first, reach out to app development companies and request quotes. Or, if you want to take on this challenge yourself, there are two routes you can take:

App platforms

In general, you can build an app a lot faster by using an app development platform. This is because platforms give you tried-and-tested templates to build from, meaning you can roll them out faster, and there’s a reduced risk of bugs and glitches. Plus, you usually get technical support included in the service, meaning you don’t have to hire someone in-house, but you still get support from an expert. Some platforms even give you simultaneous iOS and Android build options, so rather than having to choose between them (which we don’t recommend), or build them separately, you get both in one go. There are lots of platforms to choose from, like Quixy, Zoho Creator, Appy Pie – check out this list to help you weigh up some of the options.

Custom development

Building an app from scratch, rather than using off-the-shelf templates offered by app platforms, is called custom development. In general, this is a more expensive route to take, especially if you have multiple team members working on your app. It does have its advantages, though; from being unique and tailor-made to your business’ exact needs to having increased security – the list goes on. However, unless you book onto an app-building course or hire an in-house developer, it’ll involve outsourcing the job. So, if you do want to take this route, shop around and see what fits within your budget and timeframe.

Establish an aftercare process

It’s worth thinking about how you’ll maintain your app after it’s built too. If you’re outsourcing the app build, think about whether you’ll take over and manage it once it’s ready. Or will you hire someone to manage it on an ongoing basis? Consider how you’re going to tell customers about it too, to make sure they download it and ensure you start seeing a return on your investment. You could have the best app in the world, but if you’re not marketing it, you’re not going to get many downloads. Building an app can open a world full of opportunities for your business. Do your research, take a considered approach to testing and marketing it, and keep up the momentum after launch by updating it often. It can take time, planning and aftercare, but, done right, it can really pay off.

Guide to maintaining a mobile app for your business

Downloads could skyrocket when you launch your business' app, but if you aren’t putting in the work to keep it at its best, what’s to stop users from pressing ‘uninstall’? Your app has to keep delivering relevant and useful products, services or information to keep earning its place on a customer’s phone screen. While lots of attention is given to planning an app’s creation and launch, its long-term maintenance often gets overlooked. Whereas, in reality, maintenance is just as important as the initial build, so a maintenance plan should be thought about before building your app. Here’s what you should consider when pulling together your app’s maintenance plan.

Feedback is everything

Once released, your app should start receiving customer feedback, in the form of reviews on Google Play and the App Store. This is essentially your customers telling you exactly what does/doesn’t work, and what they want to see improved. The smart solution? Changing your app to meet their needs. Always read reviews, look at analytics, and adjust your app accordingly. Whether it’s tweaking or removing features that get no use or adding something new to improve the user experience; make sure you’re always checking what’s working, what’s not, and what people are saying about it. As a business owner, staying on top of trends is important too, so check out MobileAppDaily for the latest in the app world. Just remember good apps are selective with their features, so if a new trend isn’t going to bring value to your customers, there’s no point including it.

Focus on marketing

The content you launch with can become outdated pretty quickly. Make sure to establish a process to keep the information and products up to date with the latest in your business. If you have a marketing team, this is where they’ll come in, as an app’s essentially a direct marketing channel for them to use. You’ll also need to put together a plan for marketing the app itself. Whether you lean on social media or in-store advertising to encourage downloads, make sure you continue putting your app in front of customers.

Plan for the annual iOS/Google Play update

Once a year, Google and Apple release an update to their operating system. For your app to continue working seamlessly, we recommend making updates alongside it. Don’t worry, you’ll be told about it before the update is released publicly and given a beta (test) version of the update to test your app against. This means you’ll have time to squash any bugs or glitches caused by the update before it goes live. Although this happens yearly, it’s important to update your app often to keep the content fresh and valuable. Just make sure you plan for a yearly review alongside the operating system update – at the very least.

Test and monitor, always

Testing regularly will help you spot any problems in-app – and there are tools you can use to help, like New Relic and Firebase. It’s important to remember that bugs can appear unexpectedly, especially when you introduce updates, so allocating time or resources to find them is crucial. What’s more, to keep a good reputation, your app needs to be error-free, so it's best to test your app regularly throughout the year.

How often should I update my app?

For it to really thrive, we recommend updating your app at least quarterly. By taking a little-and-often approach, you'll make the update process shorter and easier to carry out – and you’ll stay ahead of glitches as well as customer demands. It’s what the top apps do: 66% of the top 1000 iOS apps and 63% of the top 1000 Android apps are updated monthly. It’s also important to bear in mind that apps that don’t get updated regularly are at risk of being deleted from the Apple and Google Play stores, so it’s worth making the time to do so. With limited space and lots of competing apps fighting for users’ attention, giving your app regular attention will keep it in good condition and help you spot smaller problems before they become a bigger job to fix. Whether you’ll be managing it yourself or hiring a dedicated team, starting with a plan is the best place to begin to make sure you’re constantly innovating, marketing and maintaining your app.

If you’re still unsure whether an app’s right for your business, or what the best ways to build and maintain it are, our V-Hub Digital Advisers are on hand for free to help guide you.

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