There’s no question that mobile opportunities are on the minds of business owners and brands, especially startups. One in ten American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users (people who own a smartphone but don’t have home internet service).
People are using their smartphones to do everything from ordering pizza to meditating. Smartphones are, without a doubt, being used by nearly everyone for nearly everything.
Should You Build a Mobile App or Just Use a Mobile Website?
Mobile websites are cheaper to build and easier to maintain than apps. So why not just build a mobile-optimized site?
A mobile-optimized, responsive website might be enough for your business. You certainly don’t want to build an app just for the sake of building an app.
New apps are being launched daily, and the majority of these apps won’t achieve their builders’ purpose. In fact, Gartner says that less than 0.01% of consumer mobile apps will be financially successful. Not fantastic odds.
But on the flipside, people are using apps more than they ever have.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, people worldwide downloaded nearly 27 billion apps from iOS and Google Play, a growth of 7% year over year.
The average smartphone user has 80 apps on his or her phone and uses 40 of them in any given month. There’s clearly something that apps offer that can’t be found in mobile websites — otherwise, people wouldn’t spend their time, money, and smartphone storage space on them.
A mobile-responsive website is a must-have, but having an app gives you the ability to do things that mobile sites can’t do, which is why people love them.
Here are five ways you can use an app to delight your customers and grow your business.
1. Make buying easier.
An app is worth building if you can make the buying process easier for your customers — if buying via the app is simpler than it is via a traditional website experience.
Companies like Starbucks and Panera make ordering easy and pick-up faster with their apps.
With both of these apps, you can skip the line and simultaneously earn perks that translate into free food and drinks. You can view your rewards status in a couple of clicks, and pay directly from your phone.
E-commerce apps can streamline the online shopping experience on a mobile device as well, so if your startup is an e-commerce site, you should definitely consider an app.
However, it’s worth noting, that a poorly designed e-commerce app can skyrocket your abandoned cart rate if it limits the shoppers’ ability to find items they want to purchase.
But the bottom line is a well-designed app makes buying easier. And if buying is easier, you’ll sell more — not only because loyal customers will buy more than they would otherwise (if they don’t have time to wait in line, for example), but because you’ll also gain customers who prefer shopping with you over your competitors since you’ve reduced the pain and effort it takes to make a purchase.
2. Save users time.
In today’s world of too-long to-do lists and endless productivity advice, no one has enough time, and everyone is looking for ways to save it. If your app idea could save customers time in any way, you should consider creating it.
Navigation apps fall into this category.
Waze saves users time not only by revealing the quickest route, but also by identifying road hazards and other time-wasters.
Another example: If your business requires booking, an app can make that process quick and easy because calendar integration is built in. Users won’t have to flip back and forth between a site and their calendar to find an available appointment that works for their schedule.
When you can give harried individuals a way to salvage a little more of their time, you’ve won yourself a loyal following.
3. Make tasks easier.
Ride-hailing apps are the poster children of apps that make tasks easier. Rather than making the effort to hail a taxi or wait for one to arrive, ride-hailing apps cut out the hassle and are generally faster. You don’t have to worry about whether the cab has a (working) credit card machine, and you don’t have to wonder if the cab will be clean.
Ride-hailing apps let you pay via your phone, and they show you in advance the ratings of your assigned driver and the car. Don’t like the rating? Simply decline and pick another.
Then there are the apps that let you quickly and easily delegate tasks, such as TaskRabbit and delivery service apps.
Literally, hundreds of daily tasks could be delegated via an app. If people can make their lives a little easier by using your app, you’ll probably enjoy a strong user base.
4. Entertain users.
Everyone is looking for a way to escape the hecticness of life, even just for a few minutes. App-based games, social media apps, and video apps are all examples of how companies are using fun to deliver value to their users.
Some of these entertainment apps are making serious money — Candy Crush Saga earned $118 Million in the second quarter of 2017. And we all know that Facebook (despite ongoing controversies) continues to be one of the highest-valued companies of all time.
If you’ve come up with a new way to help people relax or laugh, do some market research, and build a prototype to test out your idea. Your app may be the next Candy Crush.
5. Help users reach their goals.
There are few things more satisfying than achieving a goal you’ve set for yourself — be it weight loss, health, financial freedom, or building a new habit. People want to reach their goals, and they often turn to apps to help them.
Whether your app is a stand-alone, like Headspace, or an extension of a brand, like Nike Run Club, your company can benefit from an app that’s designed to help users reach milestones.
The Question You Should Be Asking
Rather than asking, “Does my company need a mobile app?” you should be asking, “Could a mobile app make it easier for my customers to do what they’re trying to do?”
If you want your app to benefit your business, you need to add real value to the lives of your users. Make buying easier, save them time, make a task easier, entertain them, help them reach their goals.
If your app is doing at least one of these five things in a meaningful way, your company will be one of the ones that’s built an app in the 0.01% that are financially successful.
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the startup tools blog series Grow Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners, and Desognli, the fixed-price app developer that helps founders create disruptive startups by designing and developing meaningful custom apps and mobile-responsive sites.