Since Apple launched the AppStore in 2008, smartphones and apps have literally changed the way we interact with the world. So, should your business get its own app?
From reading the news to paying bills, from connecting with friends and family to ordering our takeaways, from watching TV shows to learning the road rules – we live our life through apps.
Recently at a food court I noticed a group of six friends having lunch together, but not one of them was talking – they were all glued to their phones, stuck in the world of infinite scroll. (How often are we guilty of that?)
Since apps have taken over the world, and are consuming people’s attention, does it make sense for your business to get its own app?
The answer to that question very much depends on the nature of your business. Whole businesses have been built on apps – social media companies for example, plus the likes of Uber Eats, Lime scooters and more. Closer to home, the list of New Zealand’s top downloaded paid iPhone apps of 2019 featured several NZ-specific apps.
According to Apple, the top five downloaded paid apps in New Zealand last year were:
- New Zealand Driving Theory Test
- Coastguard New Zealand
- The Wonder Weeks
- Road Code Learners Test New Zealand
- Te Reo Māori
So, four of the top five paid apps were New Zealand-specific.
Whereas in the list of top free apps for New Zealand, the highest ranking New Zealand app was TVNZ at number 20. The only other New Zealand apps in the top 30 belonged to Vodafone NZ, Spark, Air NZ and ANZ.
Seeing that these New Zealand household names only just scraped into the top 30 is a good reality check. If you’re thinking about getting an app built for your business, it is important to realise that a “build it and they will come” mindset does not work in the world of apps.
Secondly, even when you manage to get users to download your app, studies by Quettra found that 77 percent of apps stop being used within just three days. After 30 days that figure jumps to 90 percent!
If that surprises you, just pause and think about how many apps you have installed on your phone, and which apps you actually use most weeks. The number of apps that we regularly use is tiny compared with the vast number of apps available. But apps can still be beneficial for some businesses.
Firstly, if an app is part of your core product offering, then of course you need to invest in the app. But for businesses where an app is completely optional, here are two key questions that can help you decide whether an app will help your business.
How big and engaged is your customer-base?
The New Zealand companies that made it onto the top 30 downloaded apps in New Zealand are big household names with hundreds of thousands of customers each and they already have customer portals for their customers to login to. So, it makes sense for these businesses to have their own apps.
While your business might not be as large, if you have a sizeable customer-base that is highly engaged, with highly regular touch points, it could make sense to have an app.
For example, do you have a customer login portal and your Analytics shows that many customers are logging in on their mobiles? This could be a good indicator of potential for an app. In this situation an app’s purpose would be to serve your existing customer-base.
What doesn’t work is thinking, “I want more customers in my XYZ business so I’ll get an app. Potential customers will download it and then use it to contact me”. This type of strategy never works. If your aim is to get found by more customers, it would be far better to invest in Google Ads or Facebook and Instagram ads instead.
What unique usefulness will the app provide?
Since 77 percent of apps stop being used within three days, this second question requires that you identify what your app will provide that is uniquely useful and will cause your customers to use it again, and again, and again.
If your website is mainly information and marketing material, then having that information in an app is not useful enough to get the user to open your app again. They’ll just visit your website in their mobile browser.
Whereas, do your customers need to upload images or forms to you regularly? An app could give them a much more user-friendly mobile experience. Perhaps you have some specific tests or reporting that your customers need to do while out and about – offering an app could make it much easier for them. If you can define a clear unique useful purpose, that can’t be easily satisfied on your website, it could be a good reason to look at developing an app.
But if instead you were wondering if an app will help you get found by more customers, the answer is a very definitive “no”. We find the best way to get found by more customers is to use digital advertising to get your ads inside of those apps that people are already glued to. I recommend ads in Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram as powerful ways for getting found.