To app or not to app – 5 boxes to check before you start

By Raquel Goncalves, Strategic Planning Director – Wunderman Portugal

A study conducted in 2014 by Flurry – Yahoo’s data analytics and mobile advertising arm – showed that about 86% of time spent on mobile devices is used on applications, vs time spent on browsers amounting to just 14%.

There is no doubt that the apps market is exploding, driven by the exponential increase in the use of wearables and connected objects. Taking into consideration these findings, any successful communication strategy should imperatively include this channel.

The app-etite for apps: consumer realities

However, a further analysis into exactly what type of apps interest consumers leads to further reflection.

Raquel Goncalves - Wunderman Lisbon

Raquel Goncalves – Wunderman Lisbon

In fact, the same study reveals that 32% of apps usage activity is linked to games, 28% to social networks and instant messaging (17% on Facebook), 11% to entertainment and media (incl. YouTube, streaming services and platforms such as Flipboard and Pocket) and 12% are utilitarian (credit card or banking apps, apps like Evernote, email, calculators, maps, etc).

A brand developing an app not related to any of these categories will necessarily compete for a very tight, limited space on its customers’ mobile devices, taking into account that only 40 apps on average are installed on a smartphone.

On the one hand, the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play offer over one million apps – even the Windows Phone app store counts more than 300,000 apps, and on the other hand, so-called “Zombie Apps” with very low popularity proliferate. According to a Compuware study, 80 to 90% of such apps are erased after a single use.

So which critical questions should businesses ask before developing an app? Does it make sense developing one, is it a priority?

5 questions to ask before you consider developing an app

We should therefore consider the following questions prior to diving into any mobile app development:

  1. Has the brand already implemented other mobile touchpoints, namely a responsive or mobile optimised website?

    A common error on the part of marketing departments is to automatically include app development within any mobile strategy – the result of a desire to consolidate the brand’s presence in this specific channel. But in most cases, other priorities prevail, such as the development of a mobile friendly website. We should keep in mind that an app can co-exist with a mobile site, but it cannot replace it.

  2. Has the purpose and role of the app been clearly identified?

    Solid consumer insights which take into account people’s motivations and needs are central to the new app’s popularity and effectiveness. The most popular apps are those that add value, or offer useful tools and services, either via personalized messages or as an entertainment tool. An app may or may not be the best tool to reply to consumers’ needs. It only makes sense to build one if it replies to a genuine need that cannot be addressed through other channels such as websites or email.
  3. What budget is available for the development of the app?

    In general, when we talk about native apps that require the development of at least two programming languages, costs will be superior to those of a website build. New solutions such as the development of hybrid apps, programmed in HTML5 and JavaScript will partly decrease development costs but will show limitations in terms of usability and access to the smartphones’ functionalities.
  4. Does the budget take into account the promotion of the app folllowing its launch?

    Building an app is just the first step. We then need to promote and communicate it. If no such budget exists, we should definitely reconsider our options. Imagine producing any piece of communication – be it a banner or an advertising film – without allocating a communication budget.
  5. Assuming a budget exists for the creation and promotion of the app, can you guarantee maintenance services and promote its usage?

    Companies often expect the process to end once the app is produced. Which is not the case at all. Today, consumers expect apps to evolve to meet their needs, so mobile apps require constant features and security updates, which demand planning, allocated resources and further investment.

If all of the above boxes get ticked, it would make sense to develop an app ; brands can obtain high levels of interaction and engagement when developing a genuinely innovative product or service, whilst building long-term relationships.

Make a difference – apps and experiences

Apps are still unquestionably a powerful way to create new customer experiences, bridging the gap between the physical and the digital world, taking advantage of location based functionalities and personalised real-time experiences.Integrating the use of apps into offline channels such as TV, radio, print or outdoors offers endless further ways of interaction.

To summarise, mobile apps should never be the starting point of a mobile strategy, but brands have everything to gain by developing apps which will make a difference in the consumer’s life, guaranteeing proximity, interaction and connectivity.