When Do You Need a Mobile App? Hardly Ever.


Just about every client I talk to thinks they need a mobile app. In my experience, only about 10% of companies need an app, and even less will be successful with one. Here are some of my thoughts and questions you should ask yourself before jumping on the app hype.

If a mobile website wont work – What will an app do for me that a very strong mobile website cannot? If you have content that are significant in size and bandwidth, this could be a good reason. This could be large videos, interactive experiences, etc. Basically, things that would not perform well on a mobile website experience.

App Open Rate – The average number of times an app is used once it has been downloaded is 2 on the high side. If you are like me, and have hundreds of apps, there must be a real reason to need to use it again or it gets lost, or deleted.

Heavy Repeat Users – Do you have a product/service that has a reason or need for people to log in more than 2-3 times a week? Bank of America is a great example of a real reason to have an app. People like to login daily to check balances, make deposits, etc. This is a very specific need for the consumer. On the flip side, if you sell a product or service where people only need to come back a few times a year, then your app will be forgotten and has no value to the user as a download.

Phone Notifications – This is a great reason for wanting an app, but there must be a reason. Users do not like getting alerts that don’t provide the value around the original intent for why they downloaded it in the first place. As an example, if a user downloaded an app that alerted them of new concerts in their area, that could be a good reason for creating an app. You could use geo-targeted data to alert them when its relevant. Just because you can use the notification feature, doesn’t mean you should. Really think this through this from a user’s perspective and if it provides value to them, not just potentially to the business.

In App Purchases – Do you sell a service that could utilize in-app purchase? Remember, you cannot use in-app purchase for physical goods, as well, the fee (30%) would prevent most product-based companies from realizing a margin. If you have a real strategy for using in-app purchases, then that could be a reason to build an app.

Marketing apps is more limiting than marketing a website, and you are putting quite a big block from landing them on a mobile website, you are telling them to download something on their advice, which is not all that easy. Sure, there are ways to target media to a direct app download, but getting people to pull the trigger on downloading and using the app is a different story, and in most cases, you will go a lot further with a well thought out mobile website experience.

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