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It’s no secret that mobile web use has skyrocketed over the past several years, with smartphone ownership in the U.S. nearly doubling between 2011 and 2015. And these smartphone users are all about the apps. The average smartphone user downloads 8.8 apps per month, spending 90% of their time on their phone in apps versus in mobile browsing windows. And there are a deluge of experts out there who insist that the development of brand-centric mobile applications is the future of marketing.
But these statistics can be misleading. The average mobile application loses roughly 77% of its daily active users within three days of them installing the app. And given that the average mobile application costs an average of $150,000 to develop and that brands primarily use paid media to promote their apps, this very expensive endeavor may appear to have a questionable return.
The question is: should YOUR company create its own mobile app?
To effectively answer this question, you’ll need to answer a few other questions first.
What are you hoping to achieve with your app?
Given how long the average consumer spends staring at their phone, having your brand’s logo front and center on their home screen certainly has some appeal from a brand recognition perspective, but there are probably less expensive and more durable ways to accomplish that objective than app development. If you’re going to go down this road, you really need to have a very clear idea of the sorts of behavior you want to drive with your consumer base. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for conversations about function and design moving forward, so start here.
How do you hope to achieve your goals within the app?
It’s one thing to say that you want to increase awareness of new products or drive purchases or increase brand loyalty. Those are all worthy goals, and all, in theory, within reach via mobile application development. But you really need to spend time thinking about how your app is going to drive those behaviors. It’s not enough to throw something together. You’ll need to get creative about how you go about encouraging certain actions. Consumers are smart. They know when an app is just a marketing placeholder. Which leads us to…
What value are you providing to the consumer?
You have to remember that you are going up against a ton of competition. As of June 2016, Android users alone had more than 2.2 million apps available to them. So when it comes time for them to decide what app to download — and ultimately, what app to keep — it comes down to what they’re getting out of the mobile relationship. Maybe that means they get great discounts. Maybe it means you’ve implemented gamification tactics that keep them coming back for more. But if it’s not valuable to them, it’s not going to have great ROI.
Can you commit?
Yes, it comes with a high price tag. But believe it or not, that’s just in the first couple of years of the app’s life. As time marches on and technology races forward, you’re going to need to keep updating the app itself, and there will invariably be bugs along the way. If you want to develop a mobile app, you need to be totally confident in your answers to the first three questions, and able to get a firm yes from your team on this last one.
All this said, there are ways for you to maximize impact while minimizing costs. Once you have a strong sense of what you’re hoping to achieve with your app, using platforms crowdSPRING to draw mobile app design ideas from the crowd can help you better visualize and anticipate the costs of your development needs.