Does Your Business Need an App?

Ok, I have had a few clients recently bring this up with me, so I wanted to publicly address this issue. Understandably, with the rapid growth of Smart phones and mobile technology in general, small businesses don’t want to miss out on the application bandwagon. It has come to my attention that there are many companies soliciting small businesses and selling them on having an app developed. Which has brought up this question; Does your business need an app?

First off, in the interest of transparency, I want you to know I’m a sales and marketing guy. I love tech, and once in a blue moon, I like to pretend I know how to code, but by no means am I a great programmer. I am writing this article from the viewpoint of marketing and new business development, not as a tech writer.

The app market

Last year there were 17.7 billion app downloads with revenue generated over $15 billion, and users spent an average of 667 minutes monthly on apps. These are some “kick ass” stats that sound great, but what do they mean for your business. According to Flurry, mobile apps usage is broken up into 47% gaming and 32% of the time in social networks. This means that the remaining 21% of time spent using applications (140 minutes/monthly average) is the total amount of time and attention that you are competing for against every other app out there.

Your business, and your needs

Let’s take a moment to look at your business model. Do you need to drive people into your store in order to see profitability? How about your website? What chain of events need to occur in order for you to make money? The fact is, that the only reason to have an app is if you have enough quality, original content/functionality that will justify people to continually use it. Period. So unless you can honestly say “Hell Yes my business is a killer content generating machine“, I would steer clear. Here’s why:

Lots of the SMB apps I see lately have features like “Find the store closest to you,” “Stay up to date with our new clothes line,” and even “Check In using our app and get our coupon of the week.” While all of those functions are quite valid and necessary in their own right, is having your unique personal app for your business the best place to fulfill those needs? I highly doubt it.

What you could do instead of an app

Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. Seriously. If you want people to encourage people to check in at your business, then you should probably run a promotion through Foursquare. Want to ensure that people can find your business location that is closest to them, invest in a mobile optimized website. Have a new product line or amazing coupon that you want the masses to use today? Better put it out on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. These platforms are the leaders for a reason. They fulfilled their primary purpose better than their competition which gained them gigantic user bases. Use them right, use them for the purposes they were designed, and you will probably get a decent return on investment.

I don’t want you to think I hate apps, I actually am a huge fan of them, but only when used in a purpose that necessitates their existence. Save your money, and and invest in marketing your business on the platforms where people already are every day. You will be better off for it.

Does your company have an app? Have you gotten results/ROI from it? Please leave a comment below!

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  1. Mallie Hart says:

    Great post, Rich. Apps seem to be the latest in the "keeping up with the Joneses" category and it's important to understand that there's a very important state after the development. Keeping the app running with quality content and information.

    • Rich Cottle says:

      Thanks Mallie. They definitely are part of the whole "keeping up with the jones" thing. I think you nailed it, we all love shiny new toys, but that last step of feeding unique quality content is key.

  2. Daniel Hebert says:

    Great post Rich!

    Why would a company need an app, if they haven't even gotten control and optimized the basics, like conversion on their website, mobile sites, and social media presence? ;)

  3. Rich Cottle says:

    Thanks man! Makes no sense to me either. My wife was even telling me her favorite craft supply store has an app, and the only way to get their weekly coupon is to download their app. Craziness.

  4. Kittie Walker says:

    Great post… another avenue where small businesses are being taken advantage of and sold something that they do not need.

    A couple of years ago plenty of the old affiliate marketing gurus were suggesting that providing app building services could serve as a get rich quick service for marketers and businesses alike… and we should know better by now than to pay any attention to get rich quick schemes. The unsuspecting are still duped unfortunately.

    Another aspect that doesn't sit well with me is from the link building perspective. I've always been uncomfortable with apps, widgets and infographics because the person that links to them or embeds them on their website via whatever inducement thinks that they are honoured or getting something for free when in fact what they are doing is voting for another website by way of a link thus providing the linked to site with heightened authority and potentially rankings.

    Apps, widgets and infographics are great if the are useful and add value. There's no point in putting something useless out there!

    • Rich Cottle says:

      Thanks Mallie. I agree. I have noticed those same affiliate companies now "specialize" in mobile app development. The link building aspect is spot on. I still like infographics, but only when used very carefully.

      "Apps, widgets and infographics are great if the are useful and add value. There's no point in putting something useless out there!" Amen!

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