In the span of a few years, the word app went from a shorthand version of something we ordered before our entree to something restaurants use to help facilitate takeout. When you look at the research, it’s easy to see why. According to a Mintel Study, Mobile Apps – US 2013, more than half of all U.S. teens and adults now own smart phones, the potential promised land for any app. But is it the kind of potential that could pay off for your business? TheWire helps you decide.
While anyone with a smart phone or tablet can download an app, Millennials (also referred to as Generation Y) lead the way in app downloads and usage. Of this generation of 20- to 37-year-olds born between 1977 and 1994, women are more likely to use apps for leisure, fashion and dining out, and men are more likely to use them for entertainment. If your business caters to Millennials and has anything to do with these industries, an app may be the differentiator you need to stand out among competitors or at least keep pace.
The key to determining if an app is right for your business is to find a consumer need it will meet and expand on it. For example, when Walgreens recognized that Millennials would rather use their smart phone to refill prescriptions, they launched an app that simplified the process and offered additional perks, like photo deals. Nordstrom’s mobile app lets customers browse and drill down to specific product details, simulating spur-of-the moment shopping that can lead to a sale. Home Depot uses an app to educate Do-It-Yourselfers, banking on the hope they’ll purchase materials at the store.
Putting money into an app that will languish or be deleted after one or two uses can wreak havoc on a small business’ bottom line. So, if you’re a wine seller who thinks clients would use an app that helps them choose the best pairings for dinner parties, confirm this in a survey before you go all in. You may learn that they prefer the personal touch of asking your expert staff, making your app obsolete before its first download. If the feedback does lead you to move forward, consider testing it with a small group of customers first. If it goes well, you can leverage the buzz – and interest in your app – using social media.
If you decide an app is right for your business, keep in mind that your competitors may be doing the same thing. Think outside the box and create something that customers will value above and beyond what’s already out there. If you run a taxi service and want an app to help customers get a cab, consider linking with an app that lets customers know when they’re over the legal drinking limit and really need one (yes, one exists, and you can find out more about it at here.) If you’re unsure how to move forward, an excellent five-point app-pursuing plan from Huffington Post can be found here.
While it’s true you can recoup some of the cost of developing an app by charging for it, the majority of apps that are downloaded are available for free. Charging even a small amount, while tempting, introduces a hurdle potential users may find financially or philosophically discouraging. In the early going, when you need traction and reach, a free app can get the ball rolling in your favor. Once established, you can always revisit the notion of charging for upgrades.
Developing an app for your business can be a rewarding process if done right. For some inspiring examples, click here for a list of Apple’s best or here for a list of Android’s best, according to techradar.com.