Do you need a dedicated mobile app, or is a website enough?
Mobile has changed the way we interact with products and services. Their always on, always available nature gives your organisation a ready-made channel for customer engagement. These statistics on mobile vs desktop usage in 2020 show that only 29% of global website visits came from desktop browsers, compared to 68% on mobile, with mobile’s proportion increasing year-on-year. The numbers vary depending on where you look, but the pattern is clear: you need to support mobile to remain competitive in today’s market. At the very least, you need a mobile-optimised website to tap into this customer engagement. But does your organisation need a dedicated mobile app?
If you are building a product or service around an app concept, it’s obvious that you need an app. If not, then it’s not so clear-cut. Mobile apps bring benefits, such as creating sticky, low-friction user experiences, providing built-in payment platforms, and being able to easily integrate with the gadgets on your phone, such as the cameras and sensors. But building an app is an expensive, long-term commitment. Your app will need ongoing maintenance, with initial development costs being only the tip of the iceberg. As a minimum, apps need updating regularly to keep up to date with iOS and Android, and to fix the inevitable bugs that will occur. On top of that, you’ll need to add new features and tweak existing ones if you want to make the most of your app investment. So, before building a dedicated mobile app, you need to be sure that it will provide value for money.
When building mobile strategies for organisations, there are some key factors that I look for that suggest investing in a dedicated mobile app would be beneficial. If any of these apply to your organisation, it could be worth considering a mobile app.
You make more when users spend more time in your product
Mobile apps create stickier experiences than websites. Having an app on the home screen means your customers can find you quickly, and are less likely to have their attention grabbed on the way to find you than they would be in a browser. If you have a product or service where you make more when your users spend more time in your app, you can leverage the stickiness of a mobile app to increase your revenue. Amazon is a great example of an app using this principle. They understand that the more time they can get customers to spend in their app, the more likely they are to buy from Amazon.
Your customers could easily use a competitor instead of you
If you rely on regular, repeat business from customers, but they could easily use one of your competitors instead, you can leverage the stickiness of apps to generate more revenue. This is another principle used by Amazon. When customers want to buy something, the app is right there on their home screen, and they don’t have to re-enter their details every time they make a purchase. AutoTrader, a service for buying and selling cars, is another good example of this. If a customer is buying a car, they can regularly open the AutoTrader app to see if what they want is listed. If they searched in a browser each time, they would see ads from AutoTrader’s competitors, and would be more likely to buy a car with one of them instead.
You want to sell digital goods or services
If you want to sell digital goods or services, a dedicated mobile app is a great choice for you. The main app stores (Apple App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android) provide you with a built-in payment platform that lets you sell the app, sell ongoing subscriptions, and allow customers to make one-off, in-app purchases (IAPs). It’s simple to set up in your app, and revenue is paid into your account as you earn it. These platforms often attract criticism because Apple and Google take a percentage of earnings. It’s worth bearing in mind because if you’re someone like Spotify or Fortnite, this percentage amounts to an eye-wateringly large amount of revenue. But for most organisations, these platforms provide excellent value for money because they manage everything for you. Bear is a good example of this. It is a note-taking app on Apple platforms that charges a monthly subscription to store notes and keep them in sync across their customer’s devices.
You want to send notifications to customers
Notifications are a great way to encourage customers back into your app. When someone receives a notification on their phone or tablet, they can tap on it to go straight to relevant information in your app. On iOS, dedicated apps are the only way you can currently do this. AutoTrader are also a good example in this category. Customers can save a search for the car they’re looking for in the app, and receive a notification whenever a car matching their search becomes available.
An app would make your product or service considerably more convenient for customers
Mobile apps can provide convenient user experiences. They open quickly, use fingerprints and face recognition to log in securely, and store information offline for fast loading times. They can be personalised, taking customers straight to the information that’s important to them. If you are providing a service in a sector that is typically inconvenient for customers to access, you could gain a huge advantage by making your service more convenient that your competitors’. Challenger businesses use this technique, for example banks such as Monzo and Starling. They make it so convenient to access their services that customers are prepared to move from traditional banks.
Your service needs to use phone hardware
If your service needs to use the phone or tablet’s hardware gadgets, such as the camera, location tracking, and accelerometers, there’s a good chance you’ll gain from having a dedicated mobile app. This is less clear-cut than some other categories, since you can control many of these features within websites. However, using a mobile app will give your customers a more reliable experience, and will be easier for you to maintain because you won’t have to support all the different browsers that run on mobile. The Philips Hue app is a good example of this. It uses bluetooth to communicate with smart lights in your home.
Investing in a dedicated mobile app is a long-term, expensive commitment. In this article, I’ve described some of the key factors I look for when assessing if an organisation needs an app, or if a mobile-optimised website is enough. I hope you found it useful.