Make sure the app route is smartest option
If it's not going to be an engaging and enjoyable app, writes Katie Roche, a mobile website could be a smarter option
It's predicted that by 2014 mobile internet will take over desktop internet usage. And with Apple tracking at one billion app downloads a month, it may seem tempting to get a piece of the market. So, should you get an app? And if not, is there any other way to reach mobile users?
Consumers now associate apps with banking, paying bills, shopping, booking hotels and travel, as well as with staying productive and connected with both home and office tasks.
The catchphrase "there's an app for everything" sounds positively abundant but in reality it's an over-crowded market where many apps get downloaded and promptly deleted.
Award-winning app developer Vinny Coyne believes that the best apps of 2013 will have unique features that cater for a mobile environment, rather than simply mobile-adapted versions of their online originals.
"You don't want to create an app that's just advertising your brand and not giving any value back to the person who's installed it. A poor mobile app experience is also likely to discourage users from using that app again," advises Coyne.
Having an app depends a lot on the kind of business and products in play. You can capitalise on the use of GPS to track customers, delivering vouchers to iPhones, and simply creating a buzz. Some apps are a natural fit: the Domino's Pizza app generated more than €2m orders when it launched in the US, making it easy and fast to order, and they engaged customers with competitions.
Expert Taxis is a good example of an Irish business who joined the app market. It launched its free app offering online bookings, a booking history, and it gave priority to those who made bookings through the app. Customers could also track the taxi by using GPS function.
Another business, Davy, has an app that provides critical commentary on the economy, price movement tracking, and educational webinars. Users can access their accounts, change details and set up accounts also.
"An app, for example, that lists cinema times, allows you to book online, allows customers to save time, offers GPS functions or motion sensors will be more attractive. Making use of the device and providing use of functionality is the main thing," says Coyne.
So, when you start to look at an app as an opportunity to create better solutions for your customers, and for your business, then you are on the right track.
There are two major platforms for apps: Apple and Google's Android.
"It's critical to understand your target market's usage of mobile devices," advises Kevin Meaney, director of IDF Marketing.
He says that creating an app takes time, research and investment. If this is overlooked, the success of your app is at stake, and that's if you even needed one in the first place.
"From recent surveys more Android users fall in the below-34 age group. On the other hand, iPhone users tend to fall in the over-35 group," says Meaney, "In terms of income, research says the majority of Android users earn under €58,000 annually, whereas the majority of iPhone users earn more than this amount."
Many businesses fail to understand that their apps may have to be updated with the upgrades. Building and continuously supporting applications for both android and iPhone platforms can be costly.
Depending on the features involved, it can range between €5,000 to €30,000 to build an app.
"More complex apps are in the region of €15-€20k, says Coyne. "Just like a website, it will be required to update software. It's a constant thing. It's important to maintain the app to show you care and haven't just left it to collect dust."
If you consider charging for your app, you'd need to be sure you've the customers to pay for it.
There are many app development agencies in Ireland who advise on business ideas for apps.
Also, you need to keep in mind that Apple takes 30pc of all revenue generated through apps, so businesses only receive 70pc of its revenue.
The global revenue from app stores is expected to rise 62pc this year to €19bn. It's a thriving market for Apple, and it would be interesting to see the return-on-investment for businesses.
With mobile device usage, comes a new set of website design requirements, as users interact and view mobile content differently when compared to traditional desktop and laptop devices.
"If an app is not revenue generating or does not require the functionality of a mobile device then creating a mobile website is the most sensible approach," advises Meaney.
A mobile website is different to a mobile app. First of all, it's not an app developer's job, it's a website developer's job. It's also a part of a buzz term called 'responsive design'. Basically, this means having a website designed in a way that adapts to the device on which it is being viewed. So it's probably better to have a website that can be be fully responsive to all devices, but it's better to start small.
Michael Bradley, owner of web development company Mode Web, has seen a surge of requests for mobile-optimised sites from his clients over the last year.
"It's an expectation to have a mobile site now, and not just a requirement – and many developers will build websites that are responsive when working with clients."
In other words, they are mainly making mobile device ready sites now. He also suggests that those websites made from the PC days will need to jump on board.
"A mobile-optimised site will bring about an improved user experience, increase conversions, and improve user retention. Sites that are not mobile optimised may lose out on the wave of mobile internet users," says Bradley.
Google has confirmed that it ranks mobile-optimised sites higher in mobile search results. And research shows mobile websites produce an average 75pc higher rate of engagement (revenue, page views, etc.) per visit for mobile users. It makes sense: it's frustrating trying to read a website that's not formatted to the screen.
The cost of having a mobile site is much cheaper than creating an app. It's more cost-effective if a web site is being developed simultaneously.
"The price is based in functionality, but you could create a mobile website or make your website mobile friendly from as little as €500," says Meaney of IDF Marketing.
And with recent figures showing Irish smartphone ownership set to hit 90pc by 2015, developing your website in a mobile-friendly way seems like a smart move.