“My company sells products or services, I should make a mobile app right?! Everyone’s doing it and if I don’t my competitors will have the edge.” Let’s take a closer look at mobile apps and why a business should or should not consider developing one for its customers. Make sure you can answer the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where and why.
Many thanks to eMarketer for its February 9, 2012 article on this subject, for raising a particularly timely issue for us: when to make a mobile app and when to simply optimize a website for mobile consumption. We’ve had more than one client come to us recently about this – often there is a push within the organization to develop a mobile app simply for the sake of it, without much regard to why. eMarketer’s article helps illustrate the point we most commonly raise to our clients who are considering an app – it sounds cool (and of course underscores our company’s commitment to innovation and the future of our business), but would a mobile optimized website fit the bill instead (usually for a much smaller price tag)?
First let’s define our terms. A mobile app is a software application custom built to do something useful (the weather app on your phone) or something fun (Angry Birds). The app takes up space on your phone, just like software you install on your computer, and needs updates periodically that the owner must download. A mobile optimized website, or WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) site, is like a mini website, reformatted to look good on smaller mobile device screens. So it can use the same software as your traditional website uses, i.e., HTML.
The first step in determining whether an app is a good tactic for your particular business objectives is to do some research and find out exactly what your customers or potential customers are looking for in a mobile channel from your company. Look at your web analytics to see what top content is among visitors from mobile devices. Are they coming primarily to search for information? To shop? Are they using an online tool you’ve developed that already lives on your company’s website? Many times, existing web applications can be easily optimized for mobile devices. Getting someone to a website is easier than getting them to bother downloading your app and remembering to actually use it. The Yahoo! And Ipsos chart below reveals interesting preferences among consumers’ mobile activities.
The 5 W’s of App Development:
- Who: which subset of my customers is going to use this app? How big a subset is it and can I justify the investment level to serve a target audience of this size?
- What: what are the required functionalities of the mobile experience? Search, account access, shopping, etc.
- When: when will my customers be using this app? Once in a while or frequently? How can I gauge this?
- Where: where will customers use the functionality my app will provide? Are they already at home? Will they be more likely to need this service on the go?
- Why: does this app satisfy my business objectives by enabling more sales, more searches, more interactions or more of whatever your target behavior is?
Like any item in your budget, make sure your team is thinking through the need, not jumping headlong into an investment that’s missing its business objective. We hope the 5 Ws of app development will help you think it through!