DOES MY BUSINESS REALLY NEED A MOBILE APP?
Unsurprisingly, if you look on the website of a company who make mobile apps, they’ll unfailingly tell you “your business needs a bespoke mobile app, which we’ll develop for you.”
However. In a slightly different approach, we’re going to give you a qualified “yes” to you and then discuss what the alternatives are to having software custom written for you.
In other words, there can be a cheap way of doing things. Read on…….
WHY SHOULD I EVEN CONSIDER HAVING A MOBILE APP?
Your potential customers have beaten you to that decision. They’re all looking at their phones.
For those of us with long memories: twenty years ago, the question was “Does my company need a website?” You’d be very hard pressed to find a company without a website now. Or at least one which intends to remain in business, that is.
Technology moves on. Simply put, the general public is much more connected to their mobile phones than any other advertising medium. For relatively little outlay, you get a new marketing channel which should pay for itself very quickly.
One of the caveats is that term - “relatively little outlay”. Bespoke mobile apps are financially within the reach of most companies but probably too expensive for small business owners. (There are alternatives which we discuss later here.)
There are options for the small business owner, or even sole trader.
MOBILE APP BUSINESS BENEFITS
The key phrase here is “engaging customers”. People are much, much more likely to engage with their mobile phones than they are with traditional marketing approaches such as e-mails. The open rate for unsolicited e-mails is only a few percent - customers are something approaching 60% likely to open a push notification on a phone.
Well. Here’s the business benefits:
Ease of customer access
87% of UK adults owned a smartphone in 2020. This figure spanned all age groups, even up to the 59 to 64 year olds. By contrast, 57% of households had a laptop and only 24% had a personal computer.
According to the link above, “100% of Generation Z users owned a smartphone”. (OK, let’s assume “99%+”, then.)
Ignore these figures and you’re ignoring a massive marketing channel.
So, if your marketing strategy relies on expecting users to navigate to a desktop site (or remember the URL and enter it on a smartphone - which they won’t do ) - and when they get there, the site isn’t optimised for mobile and it’s a horrible experience….. perhaps you need a new strategy there.
Customer engagement /Brand loyalty
Engaged customers make for happy business. Let’s face it, if I want to buy an item, I can go on Google and find the cheapest, closest or whatever-the-condition article I want. From any vendor.
Or, again, I can click on an app and buy an article with a single click. A mobile app allows you to build up a relationship with your customer, by tailoring an online shopping experience to their individual wants and needs, which you can identify using analytics built into the app.
Realistically, your customers are going to take the easiest route possible. If you’ve “sold” them the idea of your business via push notifications, special offers, time limited offers, location based news and offers and everything else which is simple and easy to do via a mobile phone app, they’re going to come to you to buy goods and services.
Personalised communication /Analytics
One thing that’s very difficult with traditional marketing is analytics. Who buys what, when ? Who needs an incentive to buy something ? Who’ll probably really not appreciate another mail for a while, thanks ?
With a mobile app, you can have a whole analytic suite connected up invisibly in the background, giving you insight into your customers, and sending out personalised responses to them. Not only that, but you can get insights into what’s popular - in real life - with your customers as well.
Not only do you get better customer feedback, you get increased customer service as well.
TYPES OF MOBILE APP
Of course, the one thing we’ve not mentioned here is price.
Whilst getting a mobile app developed for you is now cheaper than it ever was, having bespoke software written for you is never going to be a particularly inexpensive exercise.
Let’s look at two different approaches - the “white label” approach - and the “bespoke” approach.
WHITE LABEL APPS
What’s a white label app ?
Simple. A white label app is a generic app which can be rebranded to your own corporate logo. Here’s the plus point - white label apps are cheap - here’s the minus point - the functionality may not match your business needs.
As an example. Taxi hailing, restaurant ordering and florists all pretty much have similar business needs, so a development company somewhere will write an app which can be used by any company in that field. The app will probably include some standard functionality, such as GPS location for taxis, some way of taking a payment, a booking system, some kind of admin back end, etcetera etcetera, and efficiencies of scale mean it can be sold at a low price.
You may pay a bit more for support and maintenance and having the app customised to show your corporate branding, but in general, if you want an app for your small business, you should be able to find something out there.
The potential frustration can occur when the white label app turns out to not have the functionality you want, or your business changes and you need additional functionality included. This may or may not be possible via the T’s and C’s of the app, changing it may invalidate your support, etc. You might find out at that stage that you’re not allowed access to the source code or that it’s going to be a fortune to change the app. And, since, your app is going to look much the same as competitor apps, you’re not going to be able to stand out from the crowd with clever designs and features.
Whilst white label apps are a good solution for an uncomplicated business problem, if things get more complicated, you really have to consider bespoke software development, and here, the question of “Does my business need a mobile app ?” really starts getting interesting.
BESPOKE MOBILE APPS
If a white label app doesn’t match your needs, or you want to stand out from the competition, you need a bespoke app. Some developers will go off and, after a consultative process - much like fitting a bespoke suit - you’ll get an app which exactly fits your needs and brand image. More on our design process here.
A bespoke app can be tailored exactly to your requirements. It’ll integrate with your back office systems without any problems and is capable of being added to as your business expands - or your ideas grow. You can start small, test the waters and then scale up when you’re ready.
The good news is that app development is no longer as expensive as it used to be. Modern development frameworks mean you’re not constrained to having separate Android and iOS apps developed - this is down to “cross platform development”.
To put it simply, developers using modern frameworks such as Google’s Flutter or React Native can now write one block of code - not two - which then produces separate, identical looking mobile apps for Android and iOS. You can also, with Flutter, have a web app as well. Given the “one block of code” approach, ongoing maintenance and support is also much easier. And that means cheaper.
SO DO I NEED A MOBILE APP?
If you’ve got a medium to large sized business, the conclusion is pretty inescapable:
”Get an app”.
The business benefits of having an app massively outweigh not having one.
If you’re the owner of a normal or large business, all the business benefits above apply to you. You can, of course, go down the cheaper “white label” route, if your business is generic and you can bend your business processes to what the white label app allows you to do.
Remember: you can’t add to a white label app. Your business requirements may change in future. When you launch an app, if you need to substantially change or rewrite it, you’re asking your customers to download it again, get used to new functionality - so that involves an element of risk and expense. Your customers are worth more than your app will ever be.
If you want something more complex or directly suited to your needs: consider going bespoke. Before going down that route, you may want a chat with your friendly local app developer, of course.
That’d be us. For free advice about how to connect your business - large or small - up to all those potential customers out there, click on the button below.
SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
One of the most difficult aspects of owning a small business is marketing it effectively.
If you’re relying on generating custom - and retaining existing customers - by traditional methods such as e-mail, you’ve probably realised by now that it’s a very inefficient and time consuming process. Typically, the conversion rate from an e-mail campaign is about 1%.
Data is difficult to find - especially with GDPR legislation, and there’s a time overhead in inputting data into some form of CRM - Customer Relationship Management - system. You then have to plan marketing campaigns using automated mailer systems such as Mailchimp, there’s a disconnect between your CRM and mailer system, and it all takes time and costs money. On top of that, third party cookies are shortly going to disappear, making tracking opened mailers much more difficult.
Now imagine that your customers come into your shop, scan a QR code and download an app. No advertising. And a channel for you to market your goods and services to, engage your customers and encourage them to return.
We’d advise you to think about a basic bespoke app which can be added to in future. You can start small and add to it later - not something you can do with a white label app. That’s the ideal.
However, if your budget is tight, generic “white label” apps will probably cost you the same price as your CRM system: the app should have some kind of CRM system built in with it, so ! with a bit of research, you might be able to get a white label mobile app for a low price. Remember those drawbacks, though.
GET IN TOUCH
If you’re a business owner of any size, thinking about how a mobile app can benefit your business, feel free to get in touch with us. We’re happy to talk through your ideas and help you find the most appropriate solution. Click on the button below, we’ll be delighted to hear from you!