Let me firstly start off by saying that apps are fantastic when done correctly. They can be a really useful tool and can help to seriously grow a brand and engage with your audience.

Apps are integral to our modern lives and we use our handy smartphone apps to help us navigate through our ever busier and complicated lives. So when a company gets it bang on with their app, it can produce some truly fantastic results.

But this is where a lot of businesses fall down the rabbit hole because apps are so important for their audience they think that they automatically need to build one for themselves. This trigger-happy app mentality sees a lot of companies failing to think through their strategy before chucking tens of thousands into an app that is hardly used and not performing to its optimum.

You just need to scroll through Google Play or the App Store to see the trend as clear as day. Thousands of hardly downloaded apps sit pretty and wait to be used, like the wallflowers at the smartphone school dance waiting for a suiter to take a chance and download them.

Game of life

But even when your app finally gets downloaded, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the user is going to stay active. We live in fickle digital times where app loyalty is a hard thing to earn, and so as soon as the download takes place it’s pretty much a fight to the death to keep the user engaged and using the app on a regular basis.

Think about it this way – how many apps do you use in a month? Before you say loads, think about which ones you use and when. I would hazard a guess that you use more than one app every day but that they are often the same ones.

Take my own beloved app usage as a litmus test, I would say I use 5-8 apps on a monthly basis, which include:

Daily:

  • Google Maps
  • WhatsApp
  • Fb messenger
  • RBS online banking
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Slack

Occasional:

  • The Trainline
  • WeTransfer
  • Bitly
  • Eventbrite
  • Meetup
Just to put that into context, I sometimes use (i.e. once or twice a month) some of the biggest apps out there, because they are only useful to me on occasion. I don’t even have many niche, start-up apps on my phone, only well-known apps that serve a purpose.

People download an average of 1-3 apps per month and use an average 0.5 of those apps once downloaded. Why? Because the market is so competitive and there are already some fantastic apps out there. Customers are basically spoilt for choice and only engage with apps that make their lives better in an immediate and tangible way.

This might seem kind of gloomy, but when you build your own app you are basically hedging your bets on very low engagement stats from your audience which any bookie worth their salt would tell you is a high-risk investment.

If you’re going to invest in building an app then you better be sure that it’s going to be the best thing since sliced bread. And what I mean by that is great user experience and that your app is truly useful for the person who is going to download it.

Building an app is the equivalent of choosing to play a game of Russian roulette and thinking that you have a good chance of not dying. Sometimes it’s best to not take a gamble, especially when the risk is unnecessary and there are other options available to you.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-app, they are my favourite digital obsession. But they are also complex beasts and need have a great idea behind them that has undergone solid researching and strategic thinking – and that’s without any snazzy branding and slick back-end coding.

Question time

So if you’re starting to think that you need an app for my customers to use, the first thing you should actually be asking yourself is – do I really need it?

If your mobile-enabled website can perform the same function as your prospective app, you could be saving yourself a wad full of cash by ditching your app idea. For example, you want to create an app so that people can access personal or confidential information and you also want to put some interesting marketing tools or industry-related articles on their too. If you create a member’s portal on your website that is only accessible with a password, it can perform this very function at a fraction of the price and will be accessible on multiple devices, not just a smartphone.

And before you steam ahead and contact an agency, you need to tick three boxes for your app idea –

  1. It serves a specific purpose that your website can’t fulfil
  2. The app is useful for your intended audience
  3. It’s interactive (i.e. has tools, functions, games, videos etc.)

If your app doesn’t tick all 3 then throw your app idea in the digital bin and get cracking on improving your website usability.

Another great tip is to actually ask your audience. If you are going to be spending upwards of 20 thousand on an app, it’s well worth the time to ask your customers what they would like to see from the app you are building. Not only will it help you to build an app that is completely tailored around your potential users, it will also help you to raise awareness of your app before you’ve even built it.

Top of the Pops

There are only a handful of apps that actually hit the nail on the head by achieving great engagement and building a true membership base, the rest float around on Google Play and have the engagement levels of a digital graveyard. So before you invest, really think about if the app will do what is says on the tin and if your audience will care enough to use it.

And if after this article you are still 100% adamant that you should build an app for your business, then I would say throw caution to the wind and build that app. Who knows, it might make our lives easier and more hassle-free in the process.

 

Psst! Did you know that us Bamboo wizards can create pretty nifty mobile-enabled portal pages on your website? Before building that app, have a chat with us about what magic coding formulas with can sprinkle over your website.


Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash