You can create an app for your business and it doesn’t need to be expensive. The cost of an app is mainly determined by the number of features and pages. Some apps are so trivial that you can create them yourself, with the aid of some tools. When you need some advanced features such as user authentication, notifications and dynamic content, however, the help of a professional will probably save you a lot of time and headaches.
The rationale for building an app
Every business owner knows that diversification is key to generating a continuous revenue stream. Mobile applications are a way to diversify into the mobile market. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage in this market, such as direct sales of your product, building customer loyalty and brand building. Most business nowadays is conducted online and from mobile (see Amazon) and we can expect this trend to expand and consolidate in the near future.
Which mobile platform to target?
The three major mobile platforms include iOS (the operating system for the iPhone and iPad), Android and Windows Phone. If you target Android and iOS, these two alone will give you exposure to 97% of the mobile app market. Windows Phone’s market share has not caught on yet, but it might in the future. Between Android and iOS, Android holds 87% of the market share, whereas iOS holds 11.7% (as of Q2 2016). Check this website for updated statistics.
Small and medium businesses
There are several ways that a business can profit from entering the mobile market, by increasing the number of customers, introducing yourself to potential clients and have a social media integration that could send your products viral. Think about all that free advertising. Giving your users an app to connect with your business is one of the steps necessary to create that social media chatter around your company.
1. Mobile apps give a top experience
Even if you already have a website, websites cannot match the user experience that a mobile app can provide. Having a mobile app shows that you really care about your customers.
2. People spend time on mobile
Perspective buyers spend as much as 2 hours a day on mobile devices. With an app, you can position yourself in front of them and redirect their attention to your products.
3. Brand Royalty
People like brands and want to be associated with them. By providing a mobile application you encourage them to stick with your brand, which in turn makes them more likely to buy from you, more often. Business is about reciprocating: you offer something of value, and people reciprocate by buying. By creating a loyalty program within an app you can encourage your customers to come back to your business more often. Maybe by allowing them to collect points for each product purchased, or by rewarding them with virtual coins every time they open your app
4. Return on Investment
Yes, mobile apps cost money to be developed and maintained. But if you have a sales figure, it’s easy to see that the cost is a short term investment that repays itself within a short time frame. Take your current sales number: now let’s say that a mobile app will (in the worst case) increase your sales by 10%. If that 10% number is bigger than the cost of developing an app, you would be leaving money on the table by not having one.
5. User Engagement
With a mobile app you can send notifications to your users about the latest news and products of your business. It’s similar to e-mail marketing, but with a more personal interaction. Why should you care about user engagement? According to SalesForce, 70% of purchasing experiences are affected by how people feel they are being treated. Engaging your users shows that you care about them and increases your sales.
6. Reach out to younger demographics
While people of all ages use smartphones, younger people tend to interact with businesses online much more than seniors. A great way to reach younger buyers is to have an app.
Is my company too small for one?
If you already have a mobile-friendly website, you might think that your company isn’t quite large enough to need a mobile app. According to an article published on Entrepreneur Magazine, mobile usage has increased in popularity and a responsive website does not offer the same level of engagement of a mobile app. This means you might be leaving money on the table.
- When people use their smartphone, 90% of their time is spent on mobile apps.
- 3 in 4 people check their smartphones at least once an hour.
- 2.6 billion people (customers) have smartphones in their pockets.
Take a simple case and imagine that your business developed an app and was able to get 1000 users. Of those, 750 (1000 / 4 * 3) check their phones once every hour. Let’s assume that only 5% of them choose to interact with your mobile app at least once a day. That’s 37 user interactions (750 * 5%) per day. Think of them as 37 walk-in customers, who would potentially buy something from you, every day, at no extra cost. Now that’s only with 1000 users. What if you had 10,000? Or 100,000?
The cost of creating an app
From $2,000 to $20,000+, features and number of pages decide where your app falls within the range. The best way to find out how much your app is going to cost is to contact different professionals and ask them for an estimate. In order for them to give you a reasonably accurate range, make sure to include:
- A brief description of the app.
- The number of pages and a description for each page that you think your app will need. Each “screen” of the app is to be considered a page. If the app has a main screen from where users can access an about page, a list of products or services and a contact page, your app has 4 pages in total.
- A description of how users will interact with the app. Imagine yourself as being the user of the app. How will you use it?
- Details about images, product lists, logos or other content that will be included. Will you be providing the content or will it need to be created?
- Where will the app work? On iPhone and iPad? On Android? On Windows Phone? All of them?
Sometimes you will need to provide more information, but these points cover the basics.
Reduce the cost
If the estimated price is too high, reduce the number of features or pages. Do you really need that particular function to reach your business goals? Is that page really necessary?
Keep in mind that companies and professionals that live in large metropolitan areas will charge more compared to those that live in rural areas. Try to contact a few different places and see how their estimates differ.
Be wary of companies that provide you with very low estimates. These companies might give you a low estimate only to tell you half-way through the project that the estimate needs to be revised higher.
Create the app yourself
If you do not have a budget for an app and you feel a little adventurous, there are many tools out there that can help you create an app from scratch without needing to learn how to code. One of my favorite is Como App Maker. For a monthly fee they will provide you with a simple interface where you can put together simple apps. This may not be recommended if you don’t have the time and patience to learn something new, but it’s worth checking out. Note that these platforms can have their limits, and if you don’t have enough experience you might end up offering your users a sub-par experience. There are a lot of details that need to be considered when building mobile apps. While I would encourage everyone to try to build one, you must be prepared for a lot of work. You will need to build the layout, optimize for multiple devices and screen sizes, create screenshots, descriptions, a good icon, choose the right keywords so that you can be well positioned on the app stores and possibly even translate the app in multiple languages. That takes effort.
How long will it take?
The number of features and pages, as well as the level of expertise of the person creating the app will have a determining factor in the number of days that it will take to have an app created. The best way to find out is to ask the person creating the app. If you are the person creating the app and you don’t have a lot of expertise, be prepared to dedicate a few weeks for a simple app.
Is it difficult?
Usually, no app is too difficult to make, it’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take to make it. Some bigger projects can occupy many developers and designers for months (or sometimes even years), while smaller apps can be built by one or two people within a reasonable amount of time.
Ask for an estimate
You should have all the information you need to ask for an estimate. Also remember to consider the option of creating the app yourself and to get at least a few estimates from different companies before you make a final decision.
At MasseranoLabs we have been developing mobile solutions since 2009. If you want to take advantage of the current mobile trend, or if you just want to discuss an idea for an app, get in touch, we’d love to hear what you have in mind and provide you with some useful tips.