Apps aren’t the be all and end all of business: but sometimes they help

Are apps worth the effort? Yes and no. Let’s imagine you’re a small business with limited funds selling a commodity: perhaps a unique pair of sneakers, or maybe a desirable foodstuff. By now you’ve found a niche in the market and you’ve got an operational team around you. Your website is built and it’s anchored to an ecommerce platform. Your website scales for mobile phones. What can an app provide that’s any different?

Reasons not to invest

#1: It’s hard to be unique

There are 2,000,000 apps on the App Store alone. Want to join the masses? It hardly seems like a logical idea. Chances are, you already have a competitor who is sitting on the app store as you read this.

#2: Why not simply partner with someone?

If there’s another app out there that offers a comparable service, isn’t it a better idea to partner with them? Restaurants, for instance, rarely deliver their own food. They stay afloat partnering with apps like Deliveroo, who take a cut of the final bill.

#3: It takes time to approve

Even if you do start building an app, you have to iron out every single quirk before you can hope to have it approved. And the approval process takes time, which means slow return on investment.

Still, if you want to generate the perfect mobile experience and control that experience, there are a few reasons to build your own.

Reasons to invest

#1: You want to offer exclusive benefits

A neat trick is to offer an app to a small selection of your customers. Give them a special login and let them shop exclusive products. They can also build up loyalty benefits. The effect is twofold: you’ve created something that’s different from your website. And you’re thanking customers for the repeat business.

#2: You want to excise steps from the sales process

If you’re selling a commodity on a website, the customer is going through an elongated sales journey. First they’ve got to navigate away from the home page. Then they’ve got to find the product they like. Then they’ve got to select it, head to checkout, and so forth.

Why not design an app that’s an extension of your site - but purely a store? It only needs to feature products, prices and a shopping cart - no homepage needed.

While it won’t bring in new customers, it will give existing shoppers a better experience.

#3: You want to offer a native mobile experience

This one’s a no-brainer. Native mobile apps load faster and perform better than mobile websites. When you consider that more and more people use mobiles now (in the UK alone, 73% of adults use the internet on their phone as opposed to 36% in 2011), it’s definitely a consideration.

#4: You want to generate push notifications

Want to let the world know your exciting news? With an app, you don’t need to worry about boosted posts, long-winded emails, or fancy sliders. Simply send out a push notification. It’ll pop up on screen like a text message, though it can only be sent to users who have your app.

In the end, apps are great if you’ve got the operational base to warrant one, but they make less sense if they fail to offer a tangible improvement over your website. Plus, if there’s someone out there who’s already made your idea work, try to partner with them. Perhaps, later down the line, you’ll have a need for your own.

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