The app has become essential for some businesses, yet a channel unexplored by others. Dave Howell asks whether your company should have an app strategy.

According to research from App Annie, the global app economy will reach $6 trillion by 2021. This figure was achieved by not just assessing the revenue generated by the app stores, but also in-app ads and purchases which continue to be a huge potential revenue stream many enterprises are tapping into.

“The trajectory of the app economy across geographies, income levels, demographics and nearly every major industry has been astonishing,” concludes the App Annie report. “Since the launch of the iPhone 10 years ago and the launch of the iOS App Store and Android app stores nine years ago, we have seen new use cases, business models and technology innovation fuel this vibrant and dynamic market, creating the enormous opportunity we have today.”

Also, the Apple App Store and Google Play continue to be the leading distributors of apps. Consumers on average have 100 apps on their phones and tablets. Also, with an app economy that shows little sign of slowing, businesses that have yet to create apps for their customers could be missing out on a channel that will continue to expand.

Oleksandr Kosovan, CEO of Setapp, explained: “Apps now form a much more integral part of business life than ever before. As a result, the number of professional apps that are available has grown as developers find innovative solutions to meet this demand. Whereas previously, most businesses would be content with only using the default apps, more businesses are actively searching for third-party apps that work better for individual needs.”

In the past, the high cost of access was a significant issue for small businesses that wanted to create their apps. Today, the landscape of app production and creation has become more democratised with many low-cost options available. The key is to understand what is motivating your business to create an app, as not all business will benefit from having a presence on this channel.

Do you need an app?

Croner-i Business Essentials spoke with Malcolm Carroll, Director, BlueFinity International who believes there are four key reasons why the app landscape has changed for businesses.

Awareness

Companies are very aware of what is possible now and have clear ideas of the type of apps that would make a difference to their business, even though many do not know how to implement an app building process.

Accessibility

As a result of app builders, such as our solution Evoke, which provide low code/no code options that support citizen developers, companies of all sizes and types of business can now cost-effectively introduce home produced apps to their market.

Gaining a competitive edge

This is particularly true for SME businesses. Where introducing the right app (to provide a new service or merely making it easier to do business with you) can provide companies with a significant advantage over others in the market.

Competition

As more businesses are introducing apps, then the requirement simply to “keep up” with competitors also becomes more acute.

The question, though, remains whether every business should create an app for their internal use or as a customer-facing channel. Carroll explained:

“As more companies are making apps available, it is becoming more important for a small business to introduce apps to gain an advantage over their competitors or just keep up. It’s even more important when a small business is competing with larger companies (who are more likely to have already introduced apps), where not introducing the right app makes the size of their business more apparent and potentially puts them at a disadvantage.

Customers today and look for a business app, and if there isn’t one, there is a risk they will discount the business without the app.”

Smaller enterprises in particular often point to the fact that their website is optimised for mobile devices, asking why they should invest in a separate app-based strategy. Carroll continued: “Although a good website can provide a more seamless way of doing business with a company, it often merely enables them to keep up with others offering a similar service or product. An app can provide significant advantages:

  • An app with your logo available immediately on your customer’s device can make it the ‘go to’ place to do business, rather than giving your customer the option of your site or your competitors. This can produce a greater footfall and can enhance customer loyalty.

  • An app can be configured to provide a more personalised service for different types of customers.

  • An app can be set up to still work when there is poor or no internet connection, again providing for better customer service.

  • An app will provide capabilities far beyond that of a website and offer customers a better level of service. This includes ensuring data integrity, allowing for continued usage offline, for the integration with mobile features (camera, phone, soft keyboard, etc), the support of different devices and ensuring data security.

It is also worth noting that the right choice of app development environment can support small businesses even further, by providing support facilities like chatbots. This allows the small business to offer automated online support to their customers and give the appearance of being a more significant business, without the need for them to have to employ additional staff.

Carroll concluded: “The app landscape will continue to change demand for apps is growing fast. Customers today expect a business app. Equally, business apps are introducing more and more features (chatbots, signature capture, QR codes, etc) which are helping businesses make more use of apps. Originally business apps were viewed as a convenience for the customer, now they are seen as a convenience for the customer and the business.”

Although small businesses are very much more aware of what is now possible in respect of introducing new apps, many are not aware of the best way to go about it. It is crucial that they consider the following questions when making their decision.

  1. How do I make the app available across multiple devices, so that my customers can run the app on their existing machines or devices?

  2. Can I easily make the app capable of working with my existing systems and databases?

  3. Can I use existing staff (who know the business) to create the apps rather than adding to the often already large workload of IT?

  4. Can I be sure that the route I choose now will give me all the flexibility and growth potential to respond to my business needs in the future?

  5. Could app development tools and no/low code options enable us to develop apps more cost-effectively and quickly?

What is clear is that the app economy will only expand as the capabilities of mobile devices are also extended. Businesses need to support every available channel to reach their customers. With consumers preferring to use an app than a mobile website, not having an app strategy could put your company at a significant commercial disadvantage.

Your app future

Does your business need an app? Assessing how your business currently interacts with customers and suppliers would indicate whether developing an app would find an audience. Having an app as an additional touchpoint could deliver new revenue streams to your business.

The development of an app must have clear business goals. Ensure that your enterprise understands its fundamental motives for entering the app market. Think about how you will measure your app’s success. Creating metrics will help you assess how your app is performing.

Don’t make your app too, to begin with. Some of the most successful apps are not feature-heavy. Your business’ customers want an efficient app performance. Your app should help your customers or commercial partners solve a problem.

As the app economy continues to expand and diversify, moving into app development could be a new channel your business could successfully exploit. However, take your time to assess the potential market for your app before committing substantial resources. An app coupled with your mobile website could be a powerful customer services tool.

Last reviewed 25 April 2019