Should You Have A Mobile App?

There was a time, not too long ago, when producing a mobile app cost $12 and constituted sending your customer a pocket calculator with your logo on the front. These days there are certain markets that carry with them a barrier for entry that costs as much as a Toyota, demanding nothing less than an award winning app for not one, but half a dozen mobile platforms.

The trick is knowing whether you need one or not. And that little nugget of wisdom is one of the most powerful you can offer your retail clients. Get it right and you’re the hero, whether you’re saving your customer tens of thousands in development fees or increasing revenue and conversions like never before. To get started, ask your client a few really good questions:

Can you afford it?

This comes way before the question of whether your customer needs an app. No matter how badly they want it, neither of you can risk having it turn into a frenzied search for bargain basement development or, worse, a financial albatross that steals vital capital away from fundamental infrastructure (food and electricity come to mind). 

Sure, you can get one of these things on the cheap at first. But start up costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Total cost of ownership is the name of the game. And to calculate that, you need to consider developing an app for multiple platforms like iOS, Android and Blackberry; consistently updating with bug-fixes and new features; and the impact it will have on your customer service and support infrastructure. Bottom line: it ain’t cheap.

What kind of ROI will the app provide?

The question of Return On Investment (ROI) is at the core of most business decisions. Remember that this doesn’t have to mean a bump in revenue. Though more money is always nice, your client can benefit from a well-designed app in so many ways. For instance, maybe the app automatically takes care of 50% of customer questions before the phone even rings. Or maybe it’s a viral game whose sole purpose is to increase brand recognition. Whatever the outcome, it’s gotta be positive, otherwise you’re just throwing time, money and resources out the window for no good reason. 

Have a serious conversation with your client and make sure his/her motivation is something more substantial than, “Well, everyone else has one...” 

Can your app provide something genuinely useful?

This one requires a bucket load of objectivity. Everyone thinks their app is useful just like everyone thinks they’re a really good driver. Most aren’t.

It is absolutely impossible to force the public to use an app. The only way to win this war is to create something so useful, enjoyable or undeniably awesome that it attracts users like salvaged car parts to a giant electromagnet. 

What will your customer’s app do? Will it make shopping easier? Will it save them money? Will it help keep people from getting lost? Will they be regarded as cool if they use it? There has to be a great reason for someone to pick up their device and, when presented with the combined 1 million apps available today, open yours and do something useful with it.

Here again, you have to consider that, if the answer to this question isn’t a huge yes, it would be so much better for your customer to put his resources into something that will really make a difference to the company. 

No matter what they tell you, you don’t have to have an app. But if you do have one, you have to have a good one. 

KJ is a bass player and singer-songwriter (like Sting, only taller); co-founder of Sessionville; and all too fond of sushi and Doritos®.