It may seem like every business in town is launching a mobile app, but do you really need one for your business? It can be tricky to answer this question because it’s hard to predict and weigh intangibles like the value of keeping up with the technology Joneses, increasing customer interest, and customers’ perception of your business. So as you are trying to decide if you REALLY need an app, try to quantify your options and goals as much as possible. Answer the following questions as specifically as you can, and you’ll be much better equipped to make the decision.

What problem needs to be solved?

This is the most fundamental question you need to answer. Think through your customers’ experience. Is there a place in the experience that has a lot of friction or effort? Could an app do something to ease that pain point? Making an app just to make an app is completely pointless. If you want your customers to use the app, it needs to provide clear and obvious value.

You can also ask this same question in reference to your internal processes. Often, businesses will use a custom app to smooth out processes or eliminate internal tasks. Apps don’t have to be for your customers (although that is a great purpose). They can be used just by employees and management to accomplish business tasks.

Is there existing software that would solve this problem?

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel any more than you do, so once you’ve identified your problem clearly, do some research to see if someone has already solved it. There is a multitude of options when it comes to out-of-the-box software, so do some digging to see what is out there. If you can’t find anything that would solve your problem, then a custom app or software would be beneficial to you. You’ll also need to consider the cost of out-of-the-box software compared to building something custom. Out-of-the-box software often has a subscription fee or a per-user fee, which will usually be charged monthly or yearly. Custom software will have a higher up-front cost, but recurring costs will be much lower. So the true cost of each depends on what it will cost, how many users, and the length of time you anticipate using it.

What would I gain from building a custom app?

If you are considering an app your customers would use, what is the outcome that would justify the cost for you? What customer actions would have to occur and how many in order for the app to be a profitable investment? If you are considering an app for internal use, what amount of time would need to be saved by how many employees? What user error mistakes could the app eliminate, and what are they costing you now? You can also consider what your competitors are doing. Would you be the first in your industry or area to provide a mobile app? There is benefit to being innovative, as long as it makes sense for the other reasons we have discussed.

Putting some specifics to this process will help you see more clearly if your business could benefit from a custom iOS or Android app. Don’t let the trendiness of apps stress you out; consider it like any other business decision. And if you think you DO need an app, come talk to us. We’re happy to talk through your needs and answer your questions.