Does your business need a mobile app in 2024?
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As mobile device usage continues to grow, many businesses are considering developing their own mobile application. A well-executed app can provide immense value by allowing you to engage customers in new ways and enable transactions on the go. However, creating an app also requires a significant investment of time and money. Before jumping in, it’s essential to thoroughly evaluate whether a mobile app truly makes sense for your business.
We’ll help you carefully evaluate the key factors to consider when determining if your business should invest in a mobile app.
1. Consider How a Mobile App Aligns with Your Business Goals
The first step in evaluating if a mobile app is right for your business is to look at your overall business strategy and goals. A mobile app should be more than just a “nice to have” – it should fill a strategic need and help advance priority business objectives.
As you think about your business goals, here are some key questions to consider:
- What are your main reasons for wanting a mobile app? What specific goals would you like it to achieve? Common goals include increasing sales, boosting customer engagement, reducing service costs, or reaching new demographics.
- How does a mobile app fit into your broader growth strategy? Does it align with plans for expansion or filling gaps in your market presence?
- Will the app optimise or enhance specific business processes and operations? Could it improve employee productivity or business efficiencies?
- Is a mobile app necessary to keep up with competitors in your industry? Is it an expected norm customers are looking for?
- What metrics will determine if the app is successful? KPIs could include sales, activations, engagement rates, conversion rates, retention, etc.
Clearly defining your motivations and objectives will allow you to determine if a mobile app is a strategic opportunity or distraction. Aligning development to your core business goals will maximise the value it can bring.
2. Understand Your Customers’ Needs and Preferences
Once you have a clear sense of your business goals, the next key step is gaining a detailed understanding of your target customers and their needs and preferences. These insights are crucial to determining if a mobile app will actually fulfil a customer need and get adoption.
Conduct research to get into the minds of your customers, including:
- Surveys and interviews to gauge if they want and would use a mobile app. Measure the level of interest and enthusiasm.
- Analyse data on their mobile usage and habits. Do they tend to use apps over mobile sites? How often do they download new apps?
- Look at app store reviews and feedback for competitors’ apps to see what users value or complain about.
- User testing early app prototypes to get hands-on feedback from customers.
Key questions to address
- Do customers find your current mobile site limiting and want expanded features from an app?
- How do they perceive your brand? Will an app effectively extend your brand experience?
- What use cases would they want the app for? How does it fit into their lifestyle?
- What features would encourage engagement, transactions, and ongoing retention?
Gaining clear customer insights will allow you to design an app catered exactly to your audience, driving adoption and engagement.
3. Evaluate the Potential Costs vs. Revenue
Developing a mobile app involves significant investment, so you must carefully evaluate the costs versus the expected return and revenue. This analysis is vital in determining if an app will deliver sufficient value to justify the investment.
Factors to consider
- Development costs – Specialised developers are expensive, with app development projects ranging from £15,000 to over £100,000. Consider complexity, custom features, design, and platform (iOS, Android, etc).
- Ongoing maintenance – Apps require continuing costs for technical support, troubleshooting bugs, releasing updates and enhancements—plan for at least 20% of initial development costs annually.
- Marketing costs – You’ll need dedicated marketing initiatives to drive downloads and promote new features. Costs can add up quickly for app store ads and marketing campaigns.
- Potential revenue streams – Consider direct revenue like in-app purchases and subscriptions. Account for indirect value like increased sales and customer loyalty.
Conduct an ROI analysis
- Make revenue projections based on your research and existing customer spending habits. Be realistic.
- Estimate the total multi-year cost to develop, launch, and operate the app.
- Compare costs versus projected revenue to determine ROI potential and viability.
Carefully crunching the numbers will reveal whether the investment required for an app seems justified based on the expected business returns.
4. Determine the Required Features and Functionality
Once you understand your customers’ needs well, you can define the features and functionality required for your app to deliver value. Resist the temptation to cram every possible feature; instead, ruthlessly prioritise.
Core features to consider
- Primary user activities based on use cases – e.g. browsing products, scheduling appointments, accessing services.
- Key interactions that mirror website or in-person experience – e.g. account registration, search, checkout.
- Native device capabilities – e.g. camera, GPS, notifications.
- Top customer-requested functions from research.
- Mission-critical content like menus and product/service information.
- Categorise features as “must-have” vs “nice-to-have” so you can build an MVP first.
- Focus on ease of use and a seamless user experience over complexity.
- Determine which features will set you apart from competitors.
- Phase in advanced features after launch rather than delaying release.
By defining the optimal mix of features needed at launch, you can create a focused MVP app that delivers core value without going overboard on scope. The possibilities are endless for future enhancements.
5. Take an MVP Approach to Control Costs
If, after thorough analysis, you decide moving forward with a mobile app is the right choice, consider an MVP (minimum viable product) approach to control costs.
An MVP entails launching with only the core features that early adopters need rather than overflowing features. This allows you to:
- Keep development costs affordable by reducing the initial scope
- Release the app faster rather than spending months perfecting every feature
- Start learning from real users immediately to guide future enhancements
- Establish visibility and buzz early, even if capabilities are limited
Tips for developing an effective MVP
- Carefully identify the must-have features through customer research. Resist scope creep.
- Focus design on simplicity and ease of use. Create a clean, intuitive interface.
- Build with future growth in mind. Use a scalable codebase and architecture.
- Instrument analytics to measure key metrics like engagement and conversions.
- Plan post-MVP development sprints to rapidly add features.
By taking a phased approach, starting with an MVP, you can balance releasing early with a controlled budget. The goal is to create momentum and quickly expand capabilities based on real user feedback. Patients and focus on iterating based on data will lead to long-term mobile app success.
6. Consider Alternative Options to an App
Before fully committing to mobile app development, also consider if there are lower-cost alternatives that can meet your goals. While apps provide the fullest functionality, other options like a mobile website or targeted mobile ads may do the job.
Key alternatives to weigh
- Enhanced mobile website – Improving your existing mobile site with responsive design, better UI, and some app-like features may suffice. Much lower cost than a native app.
- Mobile ads – Well-targeted mobile ads may provide better awareness and reach for your brand vs. trying to grow an app audience organically.
- Hybrid web apps – Web app development frameworks can wrap a mobile-optimised site in an app shell. Faster and cheaper than a pure native app.
- Messaging apps – Leverage platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to connect with customers.
- Text messaging – SMS can engage customers via polls, alerts, and coupons. Easy to deploy.
- Social media – Grow your presence on mobile social apps as an alternative channel.
Evaluate whether elements like an optimised mobile site and targeted mobile ads could achieve your goals with less time and investment than a full mobile app. A strategic mix integrating multiple mobile touchpoints may give the best results.
7. Opt for Web App Development If Mobile Features Aren’t Needed
If your needs analysis concludes that mobile-specific native features are not essential, developing a web app may be a better strategic choice than a native mobile app.
Some examples of mobile-centric functionality that may not be required:
- Location/GPS tracking
- Push notifications
- Device camera/photo library access
- Contact lists or calendar integration
- Hardware integrations like fingerprint scanning
- Offline access to data
While these can enhance a mobile experience, apps can still deliver value without them. Factors like supporting multiple device types and easier cross-platform development may make a web app the practical choice.
Benefits of web apps
- Faster development times using common web programming languages
- Easier support for cross-device functionality
- Less need for separate iOS and Android app versions
- Ability to use some native device APIs like geolocation if needed
- Lower development and maintenance costs compared to native apps
- Distribution through a website vs. app stores
For use cases not reliant on mobile-specific device features, carefully weigh if developing a properly designed responsive web app could fulfil the core needs at lower complexity. The decision between web and native apps should align with your strategic requirements.
Deciding whether to invest in an app
Deciding whether to invest in mobile app development involves carefully weighing multiple factors – from business goals to customer needs to costs. It’s a significant commitment, but the payoff of acquiring and engaging mobile-centric customers can be game-changing.
The key is asking the right questions to determine if a mobile app aligns with your overarching strategy and has the use cases, features, and audience appeal to drive adoption and growth. With careful analysis guided by the framework presented, you can decide whether plunging into app development is the right move or if resources are better allocated to alternative mobile initiatives.
Ultimately, the decision requires synthesising research, projections, and some business intuition. Be realistic about costs, development time, and rollout. With the right strategic approach, a mobile app can take your business to exciting new places.
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