Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

There was a time, not so long ago, when everyone believed an app was a necessity. Much as in the case of the dot-com bubble, mountains of investment went into developing mobile applications, as well as the companies that built them. Fast forward to 2016, and things have settled a little and businesses are starting to see that apps aren’t always the answer. More importantly, they are starting to see when they are.

There are very specific circumstances when a native application is the best thing to invest in. But, unfortunately, it isn’t always that obvious.

What’s in it for the user?

Whether it is business-to-business, business-to-consumer or business-to-government, there is always going to be a user at the end of it. Define exactly how the user is going to benefit from having your business’s app and make that the core of its functionality. Spend time interrogating the answer.

What’s in it for your business?

There needs to be a revenue plan. Be it direct or indirect, developing applications, especially if done well, is an expensive affair. Your business may consist solely of an app, or it may benefit on the periphery; either way, there needs to be an upside.

There are a number of business reasons to build an app:

  • User data – if you get the “What’s in it for the user” question waxed and your app is used often enough, there can be some really insightful user data to capitalise on.
  • Direct communication – push notifications are an amazing way to get the attention of users. But beware, interruption works only if there is value at the end of it.
  • Visibility – the smartphone is coveted real estate. Smartphone owners use their smartphones. A lot. Having your app on their dashboard definitely assists with brand visibility.
  • Customer feedback – it could be a convenient tool to receive feedback on a product or service, and that can lead to improvements.
  • Customer experience – the value of providing an exceptional customer experience should never be overlooked and can be a powerful indirect revenue generator.

How frequently will my customer need to use the app?

Only build an app if a customer is going to use it frequently. If not, don’t. Neither your customer nor your business is going to benefit from an app that assists with something that is only infrequently required (with the exception of specific events such as the elections or Olympics) so ensure that there is a recurring value proposition.

How can my app benefit from native device capabilities?

Building a native app has benefits in terms of device-based functionality:

  • Push notifications – these are a great way to create uniquely personalised, relevant and direct communication that won’t get caught in the spam filter.
  • Location services – knowing where your customers are can have limitless benefits when creating relevant services, products or messages.
  • Security – mobile payments, purchases, sensitive information. Your business can benefit from the peace of mind and all the work that the device manufacturer has put into security.

Decide whether such features are going to benefit your business drastically. Some of them could make the difference between good and great.

Do our competitors have an app?

It always pays to keep half an eye on the competition. In some sectors, it can be a serious disadvantage if the competition is providing additional value to customers via an app. But don’t fall into the “monkey see, monkey do” trap. They might have been nabbed by app fever without interrogation.

It is really a simple case of identifying a value proposition. If an app provides customers with enough value, they will use it. And if they use it, your business will likely benefit.

The big take-out: Hendri Lategan, CEO of swipe, gives advice on when it’s a good time to develop an app for your business. Crucially, only when an app provides customers with enough value will they use it – and it’s only if they’re using it that your business will benefit.



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