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Should my business have an app? Some pros and cons to consider

In the age of all things technical, is an app the right move for your business? 

Australians are avid users of technology, with over 80 percent of us reportedly having regular access to a smartphone.

A 2015 Nielson report claimed Australians spend more than an hour a day on their smartphones. According to the ABS, six out of ten of us also regularly log on to a tablet, laptop or desktop computer while we’re relaxing at home.

The internet and our use of connected devices lets us shop, pay bills and keep up to date with the people we love. It is also making it easier for brands to connect with their customers through online experiences.

Many brands and businesses do this via smartphone and tablet apps, offering information, special deals and regular notifications that can strengthen their connection with customers.

A couple of years ago it seemed like every business had an app available for download. Nowadays it can still be a worthwhile marketing strategy, but you do need to carefully consider if it is right for your product or service.

An alternative is a responsive website design that caters for screens large and small, as well as everything in between.

We’ve taken a look at some of the pros and cons of developing an app for your small business.

Why your business might consider an app 

Apps can be easy to use, convenient and even a little addictive. If your business offers a selection of products that is regularly updated, an app can be a great way to go.

You could offer push notifications that alert your customers when you have new products and also share special offers and deals with people you know are interested in your brand.

From a marketing and branding perspective, a clear icon on the screen of somebody’s phone or tablet is a great way to stay front of mind. They could end up looking at it several, even dozens of times a day and being reminded of the great products you have to offer.

Even if you don’t have a product to sell, an app can be an excellent way of offering valuable content to your client base in order to keep their loyalty.

Some examples of this include a fitness tips or tracking app offered by a gym, or an app that helps with budgeting for an accounting firm.

You may not be making money by selling product, but you can schedule pop-up notifications that remind your customer to keep using your services and lets them know when you’re offering a special deal.

In summary: An app can be a valuable business tool if it will add value to your consumer experience, or if you regularly update your suite of products and have found through research that your customer base is likely to use this method to buy.

Why you might not bother with an app 

Developing an app can be a costly exercise – you may have to engage designers, developers and an ongoing team to provide updates and maintenance.

Those costs can add up! Before you go down the road of creating an app for your small business, make sure it is a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself many times over.

The other reason to rethink an app is competition. As pointed out recently by Business Insider, four out of the five most popular apps in the world are owned by Facebook.

To add to this, 94% of app revenue is generated by just 1% of apps. This includes popular games, social media sites, music apps and practical tools such as banking and map applications.

Smartphones and tablets only have a limited amount of storage for apps. Savvy users are increasingly likely to delete the ones that they don’t use regularly.

There is so much competition for home screen ‘real estate’ that you must consider how likely a user is to delete your app once they have used it once or twice. If your app is a novelty or only helpful for a short amount of time it could end up in the virtual trash.

In summary: Say no to an app if it is a ‘one hit wonder’ or if the financial commitment is too high for your business, with little prospect for return on investment.

Things to consider 

Instead of investing in an app, your money may be better spent on a mobile friendly (AKA ‘responsive’) website.

Google's search results favour websites that are ‘device agnostic’, i.e. just as easy to view and use on a smartphone or tablet as they are on a desktop computer.

A responsive site may be able to offer similar functionality to an app and can achieve the same goal of being highly user friendly. It may be cheaper to create and have less need for regular technical updates.

Something else to keep in mind is that an app which makes a huge difference to your business might not actually be customer-facing.

Many businesses that rely on remote sales teams or overseas warehouses develop their own in-house enterprise apps that let people stay in touch, track their progress and quickly send information to their colleagues.

If you’re considering an internal app to improve efficiency and productivity, check first that there isn’t any equivalents already out there that you can work with to suit your requirements.

As you can see, creating a mobile app for your small business depends on a range of considerations, including what you have to sell and how much money you think the app will make for you.

There is definitely potential for success, but you need to tread carefully and do a great deal of research before you take the plunge.

Small businesses aren't the only ones that are benefitting from the new opportunities that increased connectivity has to offer. Check out how more and more Aussies are embracing working remotely, finding the work style that best suits their needs.

Last updated on 23 August 2016

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