Does My Business Really Need a Mobile App?

In today’s connected world, mobile apps have become integral tools. It’s impossible to ignore the role mobile apps play in our daily lives. Be it buying groceries, booking a cab, editing a photograph or simply being in touch with our loved ones; apps make all these possible from wherever we are. Today’s smartphone loving consumer is looking for new apps all the time, while already spending a significant amount of time on apps he/she already uses. Apps bring a kind of futuristic convenience to our busy lives where time and productivity are always a top priority. But does this mean that every business must jump into the mobile app ecosystem? The answer isn’t as straightforward as we might think.

Compared to a decade ago, mobile apps are now capable of a lot more functions, and come packed with sophisticated technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and IoT integration. Over the next few years, these will become primary disruptive technologies used in homes, industries and corporate environments. The sooner a brand adopts to these technologies the better chance they will have attracting increasingly evolving tech savvy consumers. Although traditional businesses may choose to delay their digital transformation, digital has become one of the primary business drivers of today. A report from Informatic Mobile Intelligence states that the average American spends 4.7 hours a day on his/her smartphone, that’s definitely a huge time. No matter what your business is, having a mobile app can definitely enhance Customer Experience, CRM and ROI generation. It also let’s you put your brand logo on the user’s mobile screen in the form of an icon.

Apps For Traditional Businesses

Digital-first retailers like eBay and Amazon found their natural growth model through mobile apps. For these giants, it was hardly a challenge to migrate into the app space where most of their users gladly followed. But what about a brand like Tesco? It started out as a traditional grocery store almost a century ago but today has multiple mobile apps in place. Tesco realized early on that mobile is the best medium to deliver richer and more personalised experiences to their customers. It was obvious that improving usability on mobile devices was the key to larger sales volumes. Tesco’s mobile shopping apps have been downloaded by millions of users worldwide. Tesco has also used mobile apps in more innovative ways with the help of QR codes as seen here. Another good example is that of bathroom fittings manufacturer Hindware. Their latest mobile app allows customers to design a virtual bathroom for their home. A few years ago, it might have seemed unlikely for a brand such as Hindware to have a mobile app that adds value to its customers. But clearly, those days are gone. You can check out the Hindware app here.

Consumers want to have a fantastic experience, so every traditional company needs to think of new ways to offer their products and services. This couldn’t be further from the truth for Mercedes-Benz, a leader in cutting-edge automobile technology and luxury. But why would Mercedes need an app? When a customer pays top dollar for a premium product, he expects an out of the world experience. Owners of luxury vehicles like Mercedes simply don’t have the time to go through instruction manuals, service cycles and replacements. Mercedes-Benz understood this, and created an interactive app that included the instruction manuals and video tutorials of all their models, service alerts and tips that enabled the customer to get the best possible experience from their vehicle without worrying about the hiccups that come with owning a car.

Imagine this scenario: Mr.Smith is a WWII veteran who owns a deli in suburban New York. The deli was started by his father at a time when colour televisions and mobile phones were yet to be invented. The taste and quality of his products were well received by his patrons and he soon became well known in the community. Fast forward to the present day: a dozen delis have sprung up in Mr.Smith’s street alone, some are well funded and part of the national and global chains. This, along with the increasingly busy New Yorker, results in fewer walk-ins for Mr.Smith. Gradually, sales start falling. What if Mr.Smith develops a mobile app for the deli?

Customers could check out high resolution photos of his menu, order online and pick up from his store, doesn’t it save a lot of time for his customers and add value to Mr.Smith’s business? Moreover the app will provide more info about latest menu, options to enquire for bulk orders and send push notifications about latest offers everyday. It may not immediately turnaround his business but will send out a clear message: that Mr.Smith’s deli is modernising and it is here to stay.

Experience Is The Key

A survey by Microsoft showed that the average attention span on a mobile device is 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. What this means is that first 8 seconds are very crucial for any new mobile app user. Usability, layout, presentation and navigation are very important areas of a mobile app experience. On a smartphone, the user is looking for quick, snappy solutions that provide value on the go. A good app usually focuses on user centric areas like:

  • Functionality
  • Information Architecture
  • Design
  • Content
  • Usability
  • User Input

All of these are individual links in a chain that we call User Experience. It decides how much value an app adds to the user’s life and whether or not he sees it fit to occupy memory on his mobile device.
At the end of the day, it is impossible to dismiss mobile apps as mere gimmicks. With the enormous reach and personalised engagement they bring to the table, apps can help you reach out to a broader customer base. If designed and executed well, mobile apps can be a definite game changer for your business. However, you must ponder on some of these questions before you start:

  • What percentage of potential users access your website through mobile?
  • How important would it be to continuously engage your audience?
  • Will automated solutions like AI and Chatbots add any value to your business?

Though mobile apps have their own advantages, the answers to these questions will truly determine whether or not taking the app route is for you. Feel free to share your thoughts or queries with us.

23 Mar, 18 By Naveen Kolhapur
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