How to Decide if you Need a Mobile App for your Company

The business world is as susceptible to thoughtlessly succumbing to popular trends as any other sphere. While objective thinkers and analysts do try to be factual when setting business goals, that is a difficult task. Today, one popular trend is to develop a mobile app for your business.

As a consequence, many companies and organizations seem to be developing mobile applications on a whim, without having strategic goals in mind. In addition, many businesses begin their mobile development efforts hastily, without doing proper research on which technologies to employ for specific features.

Many companies end up wasting a lot of time and money developing unnecessary apps in an inefficient way. These endeavors are often so misconceived that they end up abandoning the project, or having to redevelop the same application several times, wasting a startling amount of time and resources.

This all begs the question: how does a business determine whether building a mobile app makes sense?

There is no simple answer here. When deciding to build a mobile app, it’s important to conduct proper market research. This research should be multi-channel, meaning that the marketing team should conduct it through several mediums. These channels should include online market research as well as in-person conversations or focus groups.

There are many aspects of online market research efforts. One example of this might be sending a newsletter out to a company’s mailing list that includes a survey. Survey Monkey can be a great tool to create surveys easily and collect data.

The service also integrates with email service providers like Mail Chimp. Social media campaigns can also be used to gather data through online surveys. Investing in online market research upfront will save money down the road by minimizing changes to the application later.

As Inc Magazine explains, apps often fail because they don’t collect approach data from the target market.

Online market research should also include competitor analysis. Make sure your marketing team is using modern data mining tools to gather information about applications within the niche you are considering entering. It’s a good idea to create some rough projections of what kind of marketing budget would be necessary to gain market share in the niche.

In order to determine expected budgets, it’s necessary to consider the anticipating onboarding strategy. Ask yourself: What will be the primary way I will get people do download the app? Different approaches could include pay-per-click ads, traditional SEO, app store SEO, or influencer marketing campaigns.

After deciding on the anticipated onboarding strategy, look at the data pertinent to that strategy. For example, if you plan to use social media pay-per-click ads, you have to consider relevant metrics such as expected click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost per conversion. A projected cost per conversion (CPC) will give you an idea of the marketing budgets needed to meet your goals.

Likewise, if you are looking to win conversions through SEO and organic traffic, it’s necessary to analyze which competitors are currently winning results in your niche and what sorts of efforts will be necessary to rank for those keywords.

If you’re looking to focus on influencer marketing, begin reaching out to influencers in your niche to gauge responsiveness and see whether your application would make sense to their audience. Finally, if you’re looking to use a combination of different strategies consider what marketing mix would make sense and the projected costs of each different strategy.

Not only will these efforts help you to measure the responsiveness of the market, but they can also help inform the development of the application. Data collected responsibly can inform which features to build into the app, design aesthetic, and scalability. Having a clear, data-driven vision for the features of the app will save the costs of modifying or redeveloping features in the future.

According to Digital Authority, close to 80 percent of applications are abandoned after their first use. The reason for this is poor market research and ineffective marketing campaigns.

After determining the expected go-to-market strategy and associated marketing costs, it’s time to factor in the cost of the application itself. A good first step is to outline the key features that the app will perform. In other words, what are all the things the app will do?

Based on this information, you can consider whether you would like to design some basic preliminary wireframes for the application. Wireframes map out each screen of an app and explain what happens on each screen. Many firms hire a design or development agency to do this work which is also a perfectly viable option.

After these wireframes are generated, it’s time to project an estimated cost for the app. While this isn’t an easy task, it’s an important step to ensure that you don’t wind up spending exponentially more than you anticipate. This is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in this industry, as many development firms bill by the hour, which can rack up quickly.

As much as possible, insist on a projected cost of the development agency you hire based on the wireframes, features, and technology stacks integrated into the app. While many agencies are hesitant to provide this, given how hard it is to predict certain hurdles in the development process, try to get a gut check that building your app won’t become an unmanageable expense.

Factor into your calculations the platforms you want your app to be available on. Many agencies charge separately for Apple and Android apps, while others develop cross-compatible apps that can be launched on both together. According to Techcrunch, the cost of Apple and Android apps are fairly comparable today, but this can vary depending on specific features, so be sure to do your research.

According to Forbes, the anticipated go-to-market strategy should inform which platform and operating systems to launch on.

Now that you’ve got an idea of your expected development costs and cost per conversion, it’s time to determine how your app will be monetized and what returns you can expect. Monetization takes many forms, but it’s crucial to determine which monetization strategy is being pursued, how long it will take to implement, and what returns to expect based on relevant competitor data.  Don’t forget things like embedded hardware development for any peripherals that your app may need to interface with.

Too many firms simply ignore monetization, and find themselves in a difficult financial spot when they are spending so much on development and maintenance and not seeing any returns.

Now that you’ve done compared expected costs with projected earnings and benefits and determined that an app makes good business sense, it’s time to interface directly with a development team or agency. Be sure to pick an agency that is honest and transparent about their costs.

Not sure where to start with your mobile app efforts? Check out this list of companies for details on reputable agencies that won’t lead you astray.

Don’t simply develop an app because other companies are doing it. Treat the decision of whether to build an app as a careful business calculation while at the same time factoring in expected branding and marketing benefits.