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To app or not to app? 4 questions to ask before you commit

by Neil Follett - February 24, 2017

We all know mobile apps are popular. Really popular.

Since Apple founded the App Store in 2008, over 140 billion apps have been downloaded and recent reports say app revenue is expected to hit nearly 190 billion by 2020. Today, there are over 2 million apps available for download and comScore’s latest mobile app report found that apps represent over half (52%) of all time spent with digital media in the US.

And yet, the same comScore report also found that most US smartphone owners download zero apps in a typical month! Perhaps even more interesting, the comScore study found only 13% of all smartphone owners account for more than 50% of all app downloads.

So, why aren’t the majority of people downloading new apps anymore? There are numerous reasons, but one thing is clear: we hit a point of saturation in the app market a long time ago. The average person already has the apps they need for day-to-day activities and, according to comScore, they’ll spend 80% of their time using just three of them.

So, what does this mean for marketers? Well, at the very least it means you’ll want to carefully examine all of your options before you decide to go the branded app route.

 4 Must-Ask Questions Before Doing A Branded App

1. What problem is my app solving?

What is the current challenge you want to address? How are people working around the problem right now and how are they at a disadvantage? How will your app alleviate the problem? Your answers will act as the foundation for your app, so take your time thinking them though – because if your app isn’t making peoples’ lives easier, it isn’t worth building.

2. Why is an app the best approach?

Apps should leverage a device’s native features, so consider whether your solution requires any of the following: real-time functionality, location-based capabilities, push notifications or an accelerometer (just to name a few). If so, going with an app may be the right call. If not, you may want to look at other ways to execute your offering. Responsive sites are generally cheaper to build than apps and easier to update, have broader reach, and may end up giving you better ROI depending on your needs. They can also be added as an icon on iOS and Android home screens for easy user access. There are a lot of pros and cons for both, so be sure to weigh all your options.

3. How will people find my app?

People don’t organically look for apps. And if they did, the App Store’s design and functionality benefit established apps over new ones. Over 1,000 apps are added to Apple’s app store every day but most users don’t look past the “Trending” and “Top Charts” sections. Make sure you have the time and money to develop a proper promotional strategy that focuses on addressing the right audience at the right time. Be sure to invest heavily in mobile over traditional tactics – your app should be available at the tap of a button, not just plastered across billboards.

4. What’s the long-term budget for my app?

An app is never “done”. Maintenance and support will be ongoing. The most popular apps in app stores are often updated several times a month! Ensure you have a plan in place to address bug fixes and other tweaks. Remember, apps are also vulnerable to device updates. When the iPhone 6 launched, for example, developers had to adjust their app designs for the new aspect ratio. Those that didn’t update saw their app usage rates plummet, and their apps were eventually removed from the App Store. In October alone, Apple removed approximately 473,000 outdated and abandoned apps from the App Store. Ensure you take the long-term costs of an app into consideration before you commit to a build.

A branded app can still be a great investment when it’s done right. Invest in putting your ideas to the test now to help determine what’s right for you moving forward.


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