FOR MOST BUSINESSES, AN APP ISN'T THE RIGHT ANSWER.

Mobile’s been a hot topic for a few years now, and it always seems to be ‘just about’ to take over. There’s no doubt it’s not going away and presents huge opportunities for any business, but is an app the right way to get in front of mobile users? In most cases, we don’t think so.

1. No one cares

It’s like 2010 again when everyone was pasting 100 sharing options on their sites.

No one wanted to Digg/Stumble/Forward your post then, and no one wants to download your app now. They can live without you telling them when you get a new receptionist or that you’ve got an update. They definitely don’t want your update.

Apps are for games and making life easier. Like pre-ordering coffee, you mean? No, you’re still missing the point. People order coffee like they have done for hundreds of years. Or they can text their order. They don’t need a little icon on their phone with a caffeine intake counter, specials calendar and an interactive history of the bean. They need coffee.

2. You can’t afford it

Seriously, you can’t.

Apps are like websites were in the 90s. Guys that used to sell weight loss supplements think they’re hoarding the secrets of app development like it’s a black art and they want to tell you that you NEED one, that you MUST have one. That it’ll cost you thousands of dollars.

Then there are those tacky self-publish apps with your logo added to a pre-fab solution. They may not cost you much in dollars, but you’ll waste more time than anyone else on it. Because if you won’t even invest in it, why do you expect users to give it their time? Actually, if you won’t invest, then you’re probably already half way to agreeing with us anyway.

3. Your intentions are wrong

Do you need one, or is it because everyone keeps asking if you have one?

Chances are, it’s not going to be a game-changer for you. If you’re looking for growth, invest in your mobile site, usability, search marketing or email marketing.

I recently worked in-house at a company that made a significant investment in an app, despite good advice from many senior staff, because suppliers had expected it from them. They didn’t realise two things:

  1. They were considered the leaders in the market and their suppliers were looking for / needed them to do just that: lead them and educate them, not fall in line with their expectations.
  2. You can’t get an app into the iTunes store if it doesn’t do anything.

Optimise or fix what you’re already got. No business is running at its most efficient, so why chase something that’s probably unproven in your space? Are bars actually making apps work for them? Do people really download apps to buy bulky goods?

Ask yourself: are you making your decisions based on trends and gossip, or on actual market consideration and strategy?

4. Your site should do that

Why do you even need an app?

Unless you’re going to offer something valuable and unique through push notifications, your site should be able to suit your needs.

Responsive design means you can easily afford a mobile-optimised website. HTML5, Javascript, AJAX and CSS3 technologies allow you to achieve almost anything you might want in an app, besides notifications and integration with other apps. You don’t have the risk of users running older versions of your app, and you’re not at the mercy of Android/iOs and whatever changes/restrictions they may make at any time.

5. There are better ways to communicate

What was wrong with email?

Apps are great for retention if you’ve got something you can actually offer that a browser can’t: integration with other apps, some engagement / gamification function. Otherwise, what you’re looking to achieve can most likely be achieved through your site, email, SMS.

Maybe an app is for you, after all

Obviously there’s huge potential in apps for some businesses: travel companies can create interactive city guides, flight tracking and alerts, specials alerts; retailers with a high-level of repeat business can streamline checkout, allow users to manage orders and track deliveries, or suggest products based on user location / seasonality and order history.

But for the rest of us… Try a responsive site and invest elsewhere.

– MORRIS BRYANT

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