Business apps are everywhere. From apps that provide useful functions and points of contact for customers to apps that serve as part of a content marketing strategy to encourage engagement, every business can benefit from building an app.
But before you rush off to start building your app, you need to think carefully about the process and what your aims are. It’s all well and good having and promoting an app but if it doesn’t add value to your business, it won’t be worth your time, effort or expense to create.
So, here’s what you need to know.
Which Information Will Support Your App?
Information is at the heart of all app building so you need to figure out what you want to share and how to share it. Before you can build your app, you need to make sure that you have a foundation of information to share. If you haven’t already thought about upgrading your tech, you should compare SQL Server databases to see how each might benefit your current data management systems.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you are an energy company and you want your customers to be able to look at their energy consumption and manage their accounts. You would need to allow your customers to access their data easily but you might also need to add other functionalities such as making payments or checking statements. This is where building a functional app begins to get more complicated, and expensive!
You will probably be using relevant software tools already within your business so in most cases, app building is more about reimagining the presentation of the information rather than the information itself. If your website is already providing a similar function, this is a good place to start the design process.
The more complicated your app is, the more information you will need it to be able to process. This means that you need to understand what the essentials are so that you can pare back your design and bring it in under budget. Remember that you can always upgrade a basic app later on so for now, pick out the most important information you want to use and leave the rest for another time.
What’s the Point of Your App?
There are lots of reasons that you should develop an app. For a start, having your icon on your customer’s phone screen is a constant reminder of your business’ existence so you are visible all the time. Apps are also ideal for you to send push notifications to encourage your customers to interact with you more often. Furthermore, you can use your app to stand out from your competition and show that you are truly a business of the 21st century.
But it’s all too easy to get caught up in what your app could do for you and forget that it should be all about your customers. The most important thing to remember is the purpose you are trying to fulfill for your customers. Yes, you want another way to send them marketing materials but they need something in return. The app needs to be useful to them.
You must always keep in mind what your customers expect from you. If you aren’t sure where to start, a bit of market research will definitely give you a chance to communicate with your customers and see what they need from you. It could be that they are happy with your website as it is and don’t really want an app! Most customers who use apps are looking for simplicity and the ability to connect with your business through mobile devices so concentrating on these goals is a good idea.
How is Your App Different?
Take a look at the best apps of 2019 – what do you notice? Each app is designed specifically for the handheld screen. The text is larger and the images are neatly paced. None of these apps feel cluttered and yet all are designed so that they are easy to navigate and, ultimately, provide something a viewer is happy to spend a long time looking at.
But knowing what other successful apps look like and understanding why they are so successful is only half the story. When you are building an app, you also need to make sure that it is fulfilling a purpose that complements other areas of your business. It’s no use spending a small fortune on creating an app that does exactly the same as your website – especially if your website works well on mobile devices.
Again, this comes back to what your customers expect of your business and what purpose you want your app to fulfill. Let’s take banking apps as a good example. While you could log into your bank account through a bank’s website, the app is easier to use because it is in your pocket most of the time. But, crucially, the banking app doesn’t fill the screen with information – it is honed using UX principles so that users can immediately access their accounts and go from there. Understanding what your customers want and how they will use an app is fundamental to your design choices.
Which Kind of App Would Work Best?
Broadly speaking, there are 5 types of branded apps: games, tools, apps for design, apps for socializing and apps for sales. So, a retailer might put their efforts into creating an app for sales, hoping that the app would encourage people to shop on the go. A retail app might also complement a store, providing more information about a product or styling suggestions as appropriate.
The key is working out which kind of app would suit your purpose best. A bank is unlikely to make their customer battle through several levels of a game to reach their accounts but a game would be pretty boring if you just had to enter your password to win. Considering the long and short term goals of your app is also essential. If you are building an app as part of a marketing campaign, it might only need to grab your customers’ attention for a week or so. On the other hand, if you are providing your customers with a long term solution to make working with you easier, you need to think about what will keep bringing them back over that time.
Is an App Right for Your Business?
With all of this in mind, you should be asking this final question: is an app right for your business. Ultimately, you’re the only person who can really answer this question but you need to factor several things in before you do.
First, you need to consider the cost. Building an app – especially an app with a high level of functionality – can be really expensive. On the other hand, if you can build an app relatively cheaply, have short term ambitions and want to take a new approach to your marketing strategy, building an app could be a great use of your funds.
Second, you need to consider the upkeep of your app. This is especially important if you are planning to keep your app long term and hope to add to it later down the line. Just like managing your website, you need to make sure that your app is functional at all times.
Finally, you need to ask whether an app would suit your business. If you are managing just fine with a website and other channels for marketing, this might be a step too far at this stage.