Mobile Apps - Does my business require one? (Step 1 - Planning)

While mobile apps are a powerful marketing tool for businesses, they are not a suitable solution for every business. Learn how to prepare before diving into the expensive mobile app development process.



In the past few years mobile app development has become a booming industry. Currently, it is estimated that there are 2.3 million mobile app developers who are devoted to keeping up with the industry demand. With these numbers, it soon becomes clear that this practice is a key factor for business success. With the growing number of people accessing the Internet via smartphones and tablets, mobile apps have the unique ability to reach a large number of potential consumers.


Not only have the sales of smartphones and tablets increased but the amount of mobile apps installed on them has also grown significantly. These lightweight (sometimes not so much) programs have a unique opportunity to engage with an entirely new type of customer who is constantly connected to the Internet and the global commerce space.

Many entrepreneurs and business owners may feel overwhelmed by that and jump to the conclusion that they definitely need to develop a mobile app to be successful and attractive for their customers. They may be frustrated and afraid of becoming uncompetitive, out of date and losing customers.


The bitter truth…


The truth is that not every business needs a mobile app. Developing a mobile app for a business may offer some benefits, but is certainly not for everyone. Many spend a lot of money and effort to create a mobile app only to find out that the engagement is low, that their users don’t really need it or use it.


There are many businesses in that situation.


But as Head of Product or Senior Marketing Manager how do you tell your boss(es) that the app that was supposed to bring in a lot more business and that cost the company a hefty sum of money is now dead on the app stores and nobody bothers to even look it up?


Painful situation to be in, isn’t it?


How to prepare (with examples)


Mobile apps offer many benefits and opportunities to reinvent the business but you need to consider your situation and use case very carefully asking yourself the following questions:


❓ Who are my target users?

❓ What is the use case I want to cover with this mobile app?

❓ Does the use case offer enough engagement to merit the use of a dedicated mobile app?

❓ Why would my customers want to use an app?

❓ What services would it provide to hold the attention of my users?


Let’s break it down. For this we will use 4 use cases.


Who are my target users?

The first thing we need to do is determine who our target audience is.


A PHARMACY

The customers of pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies are users who need to buy some type of medicine. In other words, people with an illness which needs to be treated. They know what they need to buy and that they most definitely will buy.


A FURNITURE STORE

This one is also pretty obvious - people who need to buy a piece of furniture. They need a bed, a couch, a dining table or something else. They have a need for a product and they are looking for the perfect fit for them and once they find it, they will make a purchase.


A LOCAL GROCERY STORE/RESTAURANT THAT OFFERS TAKE OUT

The users here are customers who need to stock something for their household or get some food. They either live or work nearby. Once they find the product they need, they will buy it.


A DEPARTMENT STORE

These businesses usually have a franchise and multiple locations nationwide. Their customers range in multiple ways and there are thousands of possibilities. However the target customers for their mobile app are people between the ages of 15 - 50 as they are more likely to make an online purchase.


What is the use case I want to cover with this mobile app?

So far so good. Now let’s see the use cases. This is an important factor to understand your target audience’s behavior.


A PHARMACY

Most people would go to a physical location after their visit at the doctor's office to fill out their prescription. They will buy the medicine they need, go home, follow the treatment and get better. Then it could be months before they need to visit the pharmacy again.


There are some cases, though, that the customer is unable to go to the pharmacy for one reason or another. They may opt for an online purchase and a delivery to their home. This could also be a one time event or a continuous treatment for a chronic disease.


And speaking of which, this is another case where a patient requires continuous treatment for a disease like Asthma, Diabetes, etc. These patients most definitely will require the same medication periodically for long periods of time. They would be likely to use a service that helps them automate the process of filling out their prescriptions.


A FURNITURE STORE

These may be local or franchise businesses. Many customers still prefer to go to a physical location to make their choice. However, there is a large portion of the population in the ages between 23 and 45 who would prefer to do an online research to see what is available in their area, then go to a store to check the products in person. These people are also much more likely to make an online purchase if there is a deliver-to-door option available.


An important factor to consider is that once they make a purchase they would probably not have a need for such products for a great while. This is important when it comes to planning for a mobile app development.


A LOCAL GROCERY STORE/RESTAURANT THAT OFFERS TAKE OUT

The customers in this category live or work in the area. The ones who are likely to make an online purchase via a mobile app are mainly in the range of 15 - 50. They prefer the convenience of home delivery rather than going to the physical location. These customers would likely visit or purchase from your store at least once every one or two weeks.


Because they are local to the area, a mobile app would be a great way to build loyalty. Instead of listing your restaurant on Uber Eats and paying big commissions, you could leverage your own mobile app and offer lower prices than the competition and keep your customers engaged.


A DEPARTMENT STORE

Because these venues offer a wide variety of products, their customers are much more likely to make purchases more regularly. The target audience for the mobile app are people who like to stay up to date with the latest products, offers, sales, etc. They like to browse, compare and tag items they like and eventually purchase them when the time is right.


The ability to purchase online and get the product delivered is a major factor for them. Much like the previous case, a mobile app would be a great way to build brand loyalty.


Does the use case offer enough engagement to merit the use of a dedicated mobile app?

Now let’s check what type of engagement your mobile app would offer. This is important because nowadays there is a lot of competition. There are a lot of apps that offer similar products and services, so customers are very selective of the apps they install on their phones. And if an app doesn’t meet their high expectations, it will end up in the trash of their phone and they will never come back to it. So this is probably the most important point on the list.


A PHARMACY

From the use cases we envisioned we can determine that people with one-time, short-term illnesses are very unlikely to make an online purchase regularly. Therefore they won’t bother to install an app on their phone just to buy something once and then have an app sit on their device without being used.


On the other hand, people with chronic diseases are much more likely to use a digital solution to automate part of their treatment process and leverage some convenience.


You need to determine what percentage of your customers fall under this category and how often they would use the platform. This will determine how viable it is to build a mobile app for them.


A FURNITURE STORE

We know younger audience likes to do some research before deciding what to buy. Having an online or mobile catalog is definitely convenient for them to do their research. But once they make their purchase, they are highly unlikely to browse your products again for a long period of time.


This is definitely an indicator that a mobile application would not be worth the investment as the expected engagement would be very low. Maybe an e-commerce website would make more sense in this case.


A LOCAL GROCERY STORE/RESTAURANT THAT OFFERS TAKE OUT

As we mentioned in the previous section - your customers would likely buy from you at least once a week or two. This means that the engagement rate would be high on its own.


This is a great opportunity to leverage a mobile app to try and keep your customers engaged with daily specials, member offers and discounts.


This case certainly merits consideration.


A DEPARTMENT STORE

Similar to the previous case, we know people like to browse and plan their purchases. They are also likely to buy different products from you more frequently. Keeping their attention and loyalty through special offers and notifications through the mobile app would be a great way to engage your customers and encourage them to buy from you.


Why would my customers want to use an app?

We have been guiding the answer to this question in the previous points. And this is a very clear indicator of whether you should focus on building a mobile app or look for an alternative.


A PHARMACY

Clearly the engagement rate for a mobile app would be very low on its own. You would need to add multiple secondary features to convince people to install and use it with frequency. But the more features it has, the more complicated it becomes and the more effort it will require to build and maintain.


Bottom line - users are unlikely to use your mobile app.


A FURNITURE STORE

Similar to the pharmacy example, the engagement would be low for the described use case. Again you would need additional features to make it work, but it may not be the best investment of your money as there may be other, better alternatives.


Bottom line - users are unlikely to use your mobile app.


A LOCAL GROCERY STORE/RESTAURANT THAT OFFERS TAKE OUT

This use case is different from the previous two. People looking for convenience located nearby are more likely to install and use your mobile app on a regular basis.


Convenience and customer service being the two major factors might be enough reasons for your audience to install and continue using the app. But if you want to cement your position in the market of your local community, you might want to incentivize your customers with lower prices than using a generic app, exclusive offers for your mobile users, loyalty programs, etc.


If you would like to go the extra mile, you could offer a barcode scanner and self checkout directly from your app if you are a grocery store, or schedule pickup/delivery if you are a restaurant.


That way you can engage your customers with your mobile app even if they visit your venue in person.


Bottom line - users are highly likely to use your mobile app.


A DEPARTMENT STORE

Similar to the previous example, your users like to keep up to date with your products. But they may not visit your store very often due to a number of reasons. But if they had the option to browse your products from the palm of their hand, they might be much more likely to pick up on deals, interesting products, etc.


The wide selection of products, the customer service and some other convenience options you offer would make your users want to install and engage with your app. And again, if you want to stand out from the competition, you could add more features like loyalty programs, exclusive offers, etc.


A nice feature you might be interested in adding might be AR (Augmented Reality) for some products. Things like furniture, clothes, accessories could be useful to be able to visualize from the comfort of your home, after all that’s where the new dining table will go. Or that blouse that looks so good in the pictures may not be the best fit for you, so why go all the way to the mall to try it on, and search for your size.


Bottom line - users are highly likely to use your mobile app.


What services would it provide to hold the attention of my users?

We kind of answered this question in the previous sections.


From our initial analysis it seems we don’t need to continue investing effort in planning a mobile app that nobody is going to use. There might be a better way to achieve this so let’s focus our efforts towards discovering what that is.


On the other hand, if it seems like there might be good interest and engagement with our app, then let’s continue down this path and define the functionality, the perks, the user experience (UX), etc.


But this is not the end of the story. There’s a lot more to do before you dive in the development process. Make sure to follow us to get notified when we publish the next step in deciding what mobile app to build.



Remember never to dive in the deep just because everyone is doing it or because it’s in style. Always do your planning and analysis first to determine how viable an idea is to your business.


When it comes to mobile apps, remember that engagement is one of the key factors. Entertainment and Social apps get a lot of attention on their own, and it’s easier (to some extent) for them to justify the investment.


If your business is not in those categories, then you will have to determine if the use cases you wish to cover will have enough user attention and engagement.


Of course, nobody can predict the success or failure of a mobile app. But this initial analysis will help you avoid making a costly mistake early on in your process.


And finally, remember to contact a trusted IT professional who can help you navigate through this process. At Hristov Development we help our clients reach the best decision for their business, even if that means that we won’t get to work on their mobile app in the end. What’s important to us is that your product and your service are successful, and that we helped you get there.





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