4 Questions To Consider Before You Launch Your Next Mobile App

Today, 64% of American adults own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% only four years ago. By 2020, it’s predicted that 90% of the world’s population over 6 years old will have a mobile phone.

Our society has become increasingly attached to these devices for accomplishing daily tasks and activities. Only a few years ago many common mobile tasks were performed exclusively on computers, over the phone, or in-person. For example, some of you may remember printing maps before a long road trip or running down to the bank to deposit a check. Now we can’t function without Google Maps or our handy banking app. As such, it’s not surprising we’re now spending more time on smartphones (49%) than desktop computers (39%).

Increasingly your customers (and future ones) are using mobile devices to find and interact with your brand. If you want to reach these individuals, you may be considering launching a mobile app, especially when it’s reported that people spend 90% of their time in apps compared to the mobile web. However, before you look to introduce a new app, you should consider the following four questions:

Do you have a mobile strategy?
What do you want to accomplish with your app?
Can you afford to build, promote, and maintain an app?
How will you know if your app is successful?

Do you have a mobile strategy?

The first step is to have a clear mobile strategy that is tied into your overall business goals. If you already have this, then you’re ahead of most of your peers. In a recent survey by Adobe/eConsultancy, only 31% of companies in North America (34% in Europe) reported having a mobile strategy. When it comes to mobile strategy, you’ll often hear the buzzword “mobile first.” To many businesses being “mobile first” simply means having a responsive, mobile-friendly version of their website or offering a mobile app to their customers.

Companies with a real mobile strategy have considered how people use mobile devices to interact with their brand throughout the entire customer journey. Rather than simply reproducing the web experience on a smartphone, these organizations consider how the unique aspects of the mobile experience (GPS, camera, gyroscope, accelerometer) can facilitate a deeper, more personalized connection—maybe even fostering competitive differentiation. For example, IKEA has developed a home planning app that enables users to insert virtual IKEA furniture into their homes with augmented reality. The app gives users a sense for how the products in an IKEA catalog will look before they’re purchased and, most importantly, before they’re assembled.

In some cases, the mobile strategy can also extend beyond customers to how your employees and partners can benefit from an enhanced mobile experience. For example, the discount retailer, Family Dollar, focused on streamlining internal operations by creating a mobile app for its busy, on-the-go district managers that would assist with inventory management, scheduling, and payments. Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett indicated that “optimizing employee workflows was greater than anything consumer-facing his team could develop.”

What do you want to accomplish with your app?

If you have a mobile strategy in place, the next step is to determine if a mobile app aligns with your business objectives. If you decide to build an app, it will compete for attention with more than 1.5 million other apps in either Apple’s or Google’s app stores. According to Nielsen, US smartphone users accessed on average 26.7 apps each month in Q4 2014, and they downloaded 8.8 new apps per month in 2014 (Flurry). However, Forrester reported US and UK users spent 80% of their time in just five apps—primarily skewed towards messaging and social media apps. Most brand apps will fall into the transactional category of apps. Among the top 25 mobile apps, only three were transactional (Amazon, eBay, Walmart) and the rest were utility (Google Maps), entertainment (YouTube), or social media (Facebook) apps.

With the big players owning the majority of the app attention on mobile devices, brand apps must target specific audiences or mobile use-cases where they are uniquely positioned to shine. For example, the Charmin toilet paper brand created a SitOrSquat app to help its roughly 240,000 female users to locate clean public restrooms. Depending on the business goals behind your mobile strategy, it might be more effective for your company to use other means instead of building your own branded mobile app. For example, launching a mobile website, mobile payment coupons or a strategic partnership with an established mobile app might be more appropriate for your immediate needs.

Can you afford to build, promote, and maintain an app?

If you decide a mobile app is the right course of action for your business, you need to consider how much you’re willing to invest in its success. Most mobile apps are going to cost between $50,000 to $1,000,000 and take 3-6 months to build. In addition, your app won’t have much of an impact on your business if nobody knows about it. You will have to budget for mobile advertising—both in terms of driving people to the app stores for downloads and focusing on app store optimization so it’s discoverable.

Lastly, once your app has landed in the app store you will need to budget for enhancements and updates to grow and retain your user base. VentureBeat Insight reported that almost 70% of apps will generate less than 5,000 downloads and 60% will never be updated after release. These companies didn’t plan for success because they didn’t look beyond the initial launch of their mobile apps. If your app is worth building, it should also warrant the effort to iterate and optimize its performance and user experience.

How will you know if your app is successful?

For many businesses, the quick answer to this question will be how many times their app is downloaded. In a survey by Adobe/eConsultancy, the number of downloads was the most popular metric (76%) for measuring the success of mobile applications. Unfortunately, just counting your app downloads will give you a false sense of accomplishment. Research has revealed 25% of installed apps are never used and another 25% are abandoned after the first use.

While the number of downloads represents the top of the funnel, you really need to understand what happens as users interact with your app—in particular key actions within the mobile app. For example, if you have a travel-related app, you’ll want to know if users are logging into their accounts, searching for trips and making bookings. If the app is performing well, then it will meet and surpass your targets for various engagement, conversion, and retention metrics. Data is critical for both knowing the effectiveness of your app and helping you to determine where it can be improved.

Planning for Success

Today it’s estimated that 49% of companies have a mobile app, which is up from 35% the previous year. Far too many businesses have jumped aimlessly on the mobile app bandwagon, burning precious marketing dollars in the process. Mobile apps take time and money to develop, and mistakes can be costly—both to companies and careers.

A well-defined mobile strategy and comprehensive plan will go a long way in ensuring your mobile success as well as determining what role a mobile app will play or even if you need one. Measurement can’t be an afterthought or last-minute add-on—it must be an essential part of your app development plan. Considering how data rich mobile apps can be, there’s really no excuse for your team to not have a painfully deep understanding of how your app is performing. With adequate planning and analytics, you won’t just build another branded mobile app that gathers dust in the app store; you’ll create a powerful mobile asset for your business as it moves forward in an increasingly mobile-centric age.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentdykes/2015/11/17/4-questions-to-consider-before-you-launch-your-next-mobile-app/2/ by Brent Dykes

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