Why Building a Retail Mobile App is Probably a Waste of Time

October 14, 2014
 Why building a mobile app is probably a waste of time

Mobile apps have taken the world by storm. In Apple’s App store alone there are more than a million, and according to some research we’re spending more of our time online using them than anything else. Despite what some say about the value of apps for businesses, though, I’m still not convinced it’s a good investment for everyone.

Consumers spend a lot of time on apps

According to comScore, we spend 52% of our digital media time in mobile apps — that’s more than we spend surfing the web on desktops or mobile.

And there’s more numbers that look good for businesses angling for a way to profit from apps:

  • 57% of smartphone owners use apps every single day
  • 79% use apps nearly every day
  • 42% of all smartphone app time happens in that individual’s most-used app

Apps can benefit your business

In a Huffington Post article Sajeel Qureshi suggests that your first digital marketing step should be building an app. Done well — as the apps he mentions in the article are — an app can help you sell products, streamline processes, and keep your customers happy.

But it’s harder than you think

In his article Qureshi assures readers that getting an app developed is “cheaper to make then [sic] you think,” and that you can “use the momentum of an app to unlock the potential of the digital marketing world.”

Maybe you can — but it’s not that simple. First you have to consider:

  • How does an app fits into my existing marketing strategy?
  • What’s the goal of my app?
  • Does my audience use apps?
  • What should my app look like and do?
  • Who’s going to manage and update my app?
  • What content does my app need, and who’s going to create it?
  • What happens if my app breaks?

As with every other aspect of your digital marketing, developing a successful app begins with strategy — and the value you get from it is directly proportionate to the effort you put in.

Assuming there’s any value to be had.

Because when it comes time to buy...

Consumers abandon apps in favor of mobile websites.

Your app might be fun and cool, but if it’s not building your brand or bringing you business, why spend time and money on it?

Focus on your mobile experience instead

Before you jump on the app bandwagon, visit your website on a tablet or mobile phone. Is it a good experience?

80% of B2B (and 84% of B2C) brands don’t have a mobile strategy. As you can see in Karen McGrane’s SlideShare presentation, this unacceptable in an age when many people access the Internet using only their phones.

I believe your money is better spent on improving your customers’ mobile experience than on building a mostly useless — and profitless — app.