Mobile app development has become a huge part of IT in recent years, with more companies seeing it as an essential. Smartphone usage is already massive, and is continuing to grow around the world, so it makes sense for most business owners to focus more heavily on this aspect of development.
Is this really necessary?
It could be one of those cases where perfectly sound logic doesn't actually match up with the realities of the IT world. Mobile app development is a lot more complicated than most people think it is, and there are many barriers that might go unseen until it's too late.
Of course, there is no easy answer to the question of whether or not your business should develop a mobile app. Professor Scott Shane of Case Western Reserve University wrote for Entrepreneur that businesses need to get a mobile app because "having a web presence alone is no longer sufficient, as online activity continues to shift to mobile". So does this tell the whole story?
How cost effective is an app?
It might be the case that it is simply not a profitable option for your company. One analysis estimates that it could cost as much as $25,000 just to develop an app for iPhone. If you want to create one for Android as well, it is a harder OS to develop for. This will increase the price to the extent that your costs could end up doubling.
You might find that this is worth paying but to determine this, you need to consider your target audience. Lifewire's Priya Viswanathan says you should be asking yourself certain questions: "Who are the people you are targeting as potential customers and how many among them use smartphones? Secondly, how many would actually bother to download your app?"
Of course, if you have a mobile-aware audience it could well be worth developing an app. As well as the hidden costs, there are also a lot of hidden benefits. Even small businesses can benefit with the right app, as it can be used for payments, loyalty programs and even geo-targeting to help with marketing.
Then there is the potential audience that can be targeted. Viktor Marohnic, the CEO of the app builder Shoutem, estimates that the percentage of total traffic coming from mobile devices has increased significantly. Three years ago, ten per cent of traffic came from mobile. Now, it is close to 70 per cent. If it keeps growing, an app could end up being vital.
"Maybe" might not be a satisfying answer to the question of whether or not to develop an app but it really does depend on your business. It might be that a responsive website is more appropriate for your company. To answer the question once and for all, you need to look at your audience and their habits to make the right decision.