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Should You Build a Mobile App for Your Business?

Technology

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Smartphones are a constant companion for many people, so if you haven’t started considering mobile apps as a means to reach your customers, you could be missing out on a lot of publicity. Apps offer convenience for the consumer and give you the ability to send notifications directly to phones, making communication with your customers easier than ever.

If you want to take your business to the next level, an app could be a great investment. Let’s take a look at what makes apps so great and how you can get started building yours today.

What an App Can Do for Your Business

The biggest benefit of building an app is taking your business to where your customers are. These days, the average US consumer spends five hours per day on their smartphone, and people have been spending more time on their phones than in front of the TV since 2014. This represents a tremendous opportunity to put your business front and center for your customer.

One of the best ways to reach consumers on smartphones is via an app. Time spent in web browsers has actually decreased as total time spent on smartphones has increased. Consumers only spend around 8% of their phone time in the web browser. That means a website—even one optimized for mobile browsing—isn’t the ideal way to reach your audience anymore. If you want to reach new customers and provide the most user-friendly experience for existing ones, you need an app.

The Costs of Building an App

The reality is that creating a great mobile app, while easier than ever, still requires a major investment of both time and money. As with any business expense, you’ll need to weigh the benefits and costs on an ongoing basis to be sure it makes sense to build, host, and maintain your app.

The initial cost to develop an app and get it out the door can be surprisingly large. It can take six months or more to design, develop, and deploy a mobile app, with costs ranging from under $50,000 to several hundred thousand dollars. As with most things, you get what you pay for, so a more complex, feature-rich app will require a bigger investment.

Keep in mind that these up-front costs are just the beginning—mobile apps require frequent, regular maintenance and updates to ensure smooth operation, and the cost of these updates can add up. An initial investment of $50,000 can be as little as 35% of the total two-year cost.

While those expenses may seem exorbitant, remember that functionality isn’t the only element you need to worry about—there’s also security. Whether you want customers to use your app to schedule appointments or make purchases, you need to make sure you’re adequately protecting your patrons’ information. That’s something worth investing in.

How to Build an App for Your Business

If you have developers with experience building apps on your staff already, you’re in luck—you might be able to leverage their expertise to help with the process. Don’t underestimate the situation, though; whether you use a dev already on staff or you hire a new employee, building an app shouldn’t be a side project. Your developer will need to be skilled in the various programming languages used on mobile devices, and they’ll need to put in a lot of hours toward building out a user-friendly and functional program.

If you opt to hire a new employee to develop your app, you can either hire someone full-time to join your staff or outsource the work to a freelancer with relevant experience. Freelance programmers have become increasingly easy to find with the rise of freelance marketplaces like Freelancer and Upwork. These sites can connect you with developers and ensure that payments and deliverables reach their recipients in a timely manner.

Publishing Your New App

Once your app is put together and tested, you’ll need to get it to your customer base. Apple provides thorough instructions and help for developers looking to publish their apps on the App Store, and Google provides solid instructions for Google Play as well. These will be the two major platforms you’ll want to focus on, as they account for nearly 100% of smartphone market share. Other platforms, such as Windows, might be worth developing for if you know your customers use them, but otherwise you’ll see the best ROI by focusing on iOS and Android.

After the app goes live, let your customers know about it; provide links to the download page on your website and social media, and let in-store customers know about it, too. You’re also going to need a way to solicit feedback so you can make regular app updates to fix bugs and bring requested features to your users. Make sure to regularly check your app reviews, and give users a clear method for reporting bugs or errors. It can be a lot of work, but it can also pay off big time.

One great example of a company with big success in the app arena is PrivateFly, a private jet charter company. PrivateFly launched a mobile app in 2010—back when the company was still relatively young—and it now accounts for 10% of the company’s charter bookings. The app has been downloaded over 100,000 times, which translates over to big revenue wins.

Creating a mobile app is a big job, but if you stick with it, you may see some hefty returns. Whether you want an easier way to track a rewards program or a program to streamline appointment setting, the sky is the limit—and an app could be your way to get there.

Dave is a freelance writer with a passion for tech and how it can help us do better business. His work has been published on a variety of sites around the web.