If you’re a small business, startup, or entrepreneur, the prestige of having an app to legitimize your business further can be an appealing concept. For example, having a mobile app can help your business build brand loyalty, improve the experience for your customers through ease of purchasing or push notifications, and potentially expand your reach to a new audience.
However, creating an app is a process that requires careful planning, intelligent customer discovery, and thoughtful execution. Is your business app-ready? Here are five questions (and some sub-questions) you should ask yourself and your team before committing to app development:
1. Why Do I Think I Need an App for My Business?
The most important question you can ask yourself is why your business should develop an app in the first place. While it’s true that there’s a certain prestige that comes with having your own mobile app, that doesn’t always translate to profitability or even increased engagement.
Ask yourself these sub-questions to better determine why your business needs an app specifically:
- In what ways will a mobile app help our business that a web app can’t?
- What evidence do we have that customers will use our app?
- Do our main competitors have apps, and if so are their reviews positive or negative?
- Will a mobile app fit in with our current product line?
2. What Is the Goal?
To help guide your thought process as to why you think your business needs an app, ask yourself: what is the primary goal of this application?
Once development gets underway, and you begin exploring possible features, it’s common for people involved in the project to come up with ideas that, while exciting, have the potential to take the app concept in many different directions. Stating a clear goal at the outset of the project will help keep your team members focused–all working cohesively towards a common objective.
Here are a few key reasons you might want to create an app for your business in the first place:
- Current customers are asking for an app.
- You want a compelling mobile platform where people login and socialize with one another in real-time
- You want to send push notifications to increase engagement.
- You want to streamline your sales process (especially true for E-Commerce/M-Commerce)
- You want to sell an application easily on the App Store or Google Play.
For a more detailed list of benefits, check out this related post 6 Biggest Benefits of Developing a Mobile App for Your Business.
3. What Is My Revenue Model?
Is the goal of your mobile app to make money? If your app just needs to reproduce an already existing process on the web, then you probably already know the answer to this question.
If you’re unfamiliar with the monetization methods of app development, here’s a breakdown of the most common strategies:
Premium (Pay to Download)
The premium model is best for businesses that already have a broad audience or following on social media, and wish to cash in quickly with a straightforward payment model. This is also the easiest (and therefore cheapest) monetization method to implement.
Freemium With In-App Purchases (IAP)
The freemium model is the most popular monetization method for games and social apps. People can download the app for free and then have the option to buy additional features as an In-App Purchase.
M-commerce (mobile commerce) is the most effective monetization method for online stores that sell material goods.
The subscription model is attractive from the standpoint of being able to generate recurring revenue. However, this strategy can expensive as the subscription capability will need to be coded separately for each platform (iOS, Android, and Web).
The advertising model is easy and cost-effective to implement but requires tens of thousands of impressions to generate substantial revenue.
Each of these monetization methods has pros and cons, and all but the M-Commerce model are subject to the 30% fee per transaction charged by Apple and Google. For more details on each of these models, check out this Essential Guide to App Development.
4. Are There Integrations I Need to Consider?
The question of integration is twofold: Do you currently have a database or other technologies in place that you’ll need to integrate with the mobile app? OR are you aware of existing technologies that you want to leverage to simplify or expedite the app development process?
In many cases, leveraging existing technologies through an API can be helpful for users. Integration can also potentially save you money compared to rolling out your solution. For instance, a small business m-commerce app might benefit from integrating a system like GiftUp for distributing and processing virtual gift cards, rather than rolling out their own custom solution.
Are you interested in learning more about mobile app integrations? Check out the article Digital Fractal article What is Mobile App Integration?
5. What’s My Ideal Budget and Timeline?
Can your business afford app development? What is your ideal timeline and budget for your project? The answers to these questions will vary widely depending on your feature set, budget, and the development team you work with.
When it comes to your development timeline, make sure to set reasonable expectations for yourself as well as the development team. Keep in mind that throughout the development process you’ll do a round of internal testing (sometimes referred to as Alpha testing), internal Beta testing with a slightly larger group, and external (or public) Beta testing to a larger group of potential customers before release.
After each of these testing stages, you may determine that features or design needs to be tweaked based on user responses. Collecting feedback, planning, and pushing changes during the development phase can cause delays to the project launch, so planning ample time to dedicate to your app project is a necessity.
Generally speaking, app projects can range anywhere from one to three months, three to six months, or six months to one year depending on complexity, planning, and testing. The cost of apps developed in the U.S. can range anywhere from $5K to $100K+ depending on the feature set, infrastructure, screen views, or other factors.
With the right product or service, creating an app for your business can be a rewarding and profitable investment. However, just having an app for app’s sake isn’t a practical or financially sound approach.
Ask your customers or clients if they would use your mobile app and gauge their responses. Sometimes their immediate honest opinions will even provide you with exactly what they want your app to do, rather than you have to explain what you think they should want it to do. This is called the customer discovery phase, and it’s crucial to determine whether or not you have the right app idea in mind!
Look at your top competitors. Do they have a mobile app, and if so what do the user reviews look like? They’ve already spent a lot of time and money going through the app development process, so you can learn a lot from their mistakes and successes to expedite your app discovery process.
Need to develop and launch your app quickly? Check out the Forbes article Six Ways to Speed Up Your App Development Timeline.
Asking yourself the questions raised in this article will help you evaluate whether or not you should develop an app for your business. For best results, stay focused on the main goal monetization strategies.
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