April 28, 2023 — Not too long ago, mobile apps were novelties we used selectively to turn our phones into weather predictors, flashlights, and maps. Today, however, apps are everywhere, and many exist solely for commerce.
If you’ve considered creating an app for your small business, you’re not alone. According to Clutch, 42% of small businesses utilize their own app to extend their business reach. And that number could increase as the technology and costs for app development continue to improve.
But is having an app right for your small business? Here are several factors to consider as you make this decision.
Think Like Your Customer
Take a close look at your customer base and how you interact with it. Are most transactions conducted in person, by phone, or online? Does cultivating long-term customer relationships require face-to-face meetings—or does this all happen online or by email?
Knowing your customer profile is a first step in determining if they would value an app enough to use it. At a minimum, if they’re one of the 294 million Americans currently using a mobile device, an app is a guaranteed way to stay close.
And these insights into mobile app users from Heady on customer behaviors can also shed some light. If you’re still on the fence, consider asking your customers, which can be done for free or inexpensively with online survey generators like SurveyMonkey or other providers.
Distill Down Your Goals for a Mobile App
What do you want your app to accomplish? Can you articulate this in a simple sentence? If you know its purpose, you can use this as an overlay to help with the decision-making process.
For example, suppose you want to provide your customers with an extra incentive to shop by offering app-only deals and offers. You can then measure your results against previous customer research. Your goal is probably out of alignment if your customers generally shop in person and aren’t avid mobile users.
To justify the app, you’ll have to convert your customers to mobile apps or find a different goal that fits. Or skip the app and stick with conventional in-person or web-based commerce.
Remember Your Website
Do you remember when you built your small business website? Think about the time it took, its cost, and deciding whether to DIY or hire a developer to do it. The same dynamics apply to mobile app development. You would have a lot of choices to make if you choose to go forward.
DIY efforts will save you money (many services start around $20 per month, according to Business News Daily) but require that you put in considerable effort to develop something worthy. Given the demands of running your business, you may not have the capacity to devote time to develop an app yourself.
To hire a development firm, you might pay anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour, which may sound reasonable until you consider that according to SPDLoad, the bottom-line time commitment can amount to anywhere from $40K to $200K.
It may be a deal-breaker for some small businesses, but an app might be the differentiator required to put your company at the forefront for others.
Optimize Your Website While You Wait it Out
Just a few years ago, only a tiny percentage of small businesses had mobile apps.
As time and technology have advanced, the prospect of developing a small business mobile app has gotten brighter. So, while it’s perfectly understandable to want a mobile app now, it’s also perfectly reasonable to wait just a bit until the time, conditions, and costs are right.
In the meantime, you still have a website that can be enhanced and improved for mobile. While not a replacement for a mobile app, it can bridge the gap between customers who may want more and the effort you’ll need to make it happen.
In addition, you still have various options available through social media sites for your business, where flash sales, special offers, contests, and other tailor-made incentives for mobile apps can also take place.
Mobile apps are no longer a reach for small businesses. As they become more popular and feasible, the opportunity to leverage their capabilities will only increase.