Everyone seems to want a mobile app for their business or campaign, but do you actually need one?
Yes, an app can make you appear cutting edge to your customers and colleagues, but like any marketing activity you really need to think about your objectives and target market before you decide on an app.
One is never enough
Apps and the language that goes with them can easily confuse traditional marketeers into thinking that a complex and costly app is the only solution to their comms challenge. Before you know it, you’ve got technology agencies queuing up to offer you a solution based on different builds for iPhone, Android and Windows phones. The different operating systems mean that you can’t reach all customers with one solution so you either cut out a slice of your target market or spend a whole lot more on multiple versions.
If you listen to the tech experts you’ll need a whole suite of mobile web pages and apps to cater for different devices and operating systems. (see Forbes)
That is fine if you are the BBC or The Guardian (who recently reported that nearly 35% of their traffic was via mobile devices – largely because of the range of mobile friendly channels they had developed). But this is simply not realistic for the average business for whom online and mobile form an important but smaller part of their channel strategy.
The development costs aside, who is going to maintain the design and content of each of these? Yes, they are another route to market, but they are also another channel to be maintained and enhanced. What might seem like a one-of investment turns into a monster that needs to be continually fed.
The majority of apps have a very short life span, many are downloaded but rarely or never used and then deleted. Additionally, users are reluctant to download apps with a large file size due to the amount of phone memory and data allowance used. Think about the apps that you use regularly – they are typically either useful or entertaining.
So you want to get mobile, but do you really need an app?
A true mobile app allows content or functionality to be stored on the mobile handset to be accessed without necessarily connecting to the internet. But many ‘apps’ are actually web pages designed to look like an app, which can be listed in the Apple Store and Marketplace. These are much easier and cheaper to develop and maintain.
Alternatively you could make your current site more mobile friendly and thereby allow your customers access to all your content via their mobile device. Responsive design allows each viewer to receive an optimised web page based on their screen size, so that your site can look great across different devices at minimum cost.
I’m sure the tech specialists will find many faults with this approach, but for the majority of businesses the low-tech low-budget approach makes infinitely more sense.
So, do you need an app? The answer may be yes, but the right choice in this respect is down to the type of business you have and what you are trying to achieve with your marketing. So think twice before you jump to ‘an app is the answer’!