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Should You Develop an App?

12.19.2016 / Posted in Digital Marketing

In recent years, many of the companies that have approached us for strategy + implementation have wanted to know whether they should develop apps to help them market and sell their products and services.

By and large, the answer is no.

Sometimes, the answer is even “heck no.”

Here’s why.

Let’s Talk about Development Expense

Quality app development requires a six-figure investment. Lower-cost development options won’t provide the necessary user experience to get people to download the apps and keep using them.

After all, apps need to be programmed well, consider your target user’s preferences and behaviors, provide them the experience and information they need to achieve their goals, and give you the ability to make updates and gather data and information easily.

Also, good app developers don’t put together programs that work only on one operating system; these days, apps need to work on Android and iPhone operating systems at a minimum. This means that you’re developing two apps to get one.

Cutting corners with app development often means you might as well not even get started. If people don’t download your app and use it, you may as well not have an app.

The App Stores

Speaking of app downloads: Once the app is done and developed? You’re not done yet.

Don’t forget that you also need to spend time and money to get your app into the app stores at Google and Apple after its developed and before you start marketing.

You don’t think Apple and Google just let you list whatever, do you? Nope—they review and test and assess and decide whether it’s a product they want to offer, just like brick-and-mortar stores look at countless items each year to determine which ones they want to put on the shelves.

You’ve Got to Market It

And you’re still not there yet. Investing in the app development and getting it into the stores was just the beginning.

After all this up-front work, you need to fund the marketing effort needed to launch the app and promote it as a product to get people to download it, try it, use it, and tell their friends about it.

As with anything, you can’t just build something and expect people to show up. People have limited space on their phones and in their brains for yet one more thing. They only download and use a few things—so your app had better be super helpful.

I mean, use yourself as a test case: How many apps do you download a week or a month? How many do you use regularly? How many have you deleted after finding them worthless or to free up needed space? Think you’re not the norm? Ask a friend or two about their app use.

It’s Just One Small Part of Your Marketing Mix

Only after all that work to develop and market the app can you use the app as an additional channel for marketing and selling your products and services.

Wait—you didn’t think an app would be all you needed in your marketing mix, did you?

Tsk.

So When Should You Develop and App?

Of course, there are times that app development makes sense. Let’s review a few, many of which overlap:

  • You see the app itself as a new product offering. You will sell the app to users for a one-time download cost or a subscription fee. The information or functionality of the app is its value. (In other words, the app isn’t solely a channel through which to sell people other products and services.) You can generate a reasonable stand-alone revenue stream from app downloads and subscriptions.
  • The data the app gathers from users can be resold to customers to help them develop and refine their products and services. In some cases, this data will be valuable to your company in helping it to develop and refine its products as well.
  • You plan to build a large enough user base to make the app a platform upon which you can sell advertising to other companies or through which you can sell other companies’ products and services, generating your company an additional revenue stream or two.

What Should You Do Instead?

If this convinced you that app development doesn’t make sense for your business right now, it’s normal to wonder what you should do instead.

After all, people spend more time browsing on their phones than ever these days. You don’t want to miss the entire phone-audience category.

You’re in luck: You don’t have to miss out.

Use the apps already in existence as marketing channels. As you’ve just read, companies have spent fortunes on developing and promoting apps and building solid and engaged user bases. Just as we recommended above, they then use these apps as platforms on which they sell advertising and data to companies just like yours and through which they sell other companies’ products and services.

Research the apps out there that have your target audience as a user base. Look for apps in similar (but not competing) markets. Review personas to see if yours overlap enough with theirs. And don’t forget that social media are all apps: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn? Apps, all of them.

Lots of options, aren’t there? Need help vetting them? Contact FrogDog.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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