Almost 80% of Americans now have smartphones. The average person spends 5.4 hours every day on their phone.
It’s no surprise then mobile web traffic has jumped 30.6% since 2017. This increase of smartphone usage isn't going to slow down. It will only continue to impact how users interact with products, services, and employers.
So does your business need a mobile app? Could you gain a competitive advantage with one?
Keep reading to see why an app can be the right investment to grow your business.
What is a Mobile App?
A mobile app is a type of software that is downloaded directly to your phone. There are apps for everything imaginable like:
- Social Media: Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube
- Retail: Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kroger
- Business: Zoom, Slack, Gmail
- Financial: Chase, Mint
- Fitness: Peloton, Map My Run, Nike Training Club
- Music: Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal
- Games: Candy Crush, Farm City
- Media: Netflix, Google News, Flipboard, YouTube TV
Users download apps by visiting an app store on their phone like Apple or Google’s Play Store.
Mobile App vs Mobile Website
For most companies, you probably have a website already. If that site can be viewed on a phone, then what’s the difference of having an app? Why does it matter?
In short, apps are downloaded directly to a phone. A website is viewed using a web browser. When using a website, the browser is pulling information from a web server and displaying it.
An app, on the other hand, is its own piece of software. This means you have more freedom to build whatever you want and take advantage of the benefits below.
Here’s a more in-depth comparison of mobile apps versus mobile websites.
Main Advantages of Building a Mobile App
See why a company that already has a mobile website might also want to invest in their own custom app.
1. People Prefer Apps
When people are spending hours of their day on their phones, how are they using them exactly?
Well, research shows that almost 90% of the time they’re using apps (not websites). And users have onaverage 35 apps installed on their smartphones.
As a company, it’s critical to be where your users are. So, if you want to engage users on their phone, then an app is a good way to get their attention.
2. Create Better User Experiences
The main purpose of apps are to create useful and personalized interactions with your users. In other words, they give you the ability to deliver your products or services in a different way.
Even if you don’t drink coffee, take a look at Starbuck’s app. It aids their customers in a handful of ways: online ordering, loyalty program, and scanning for quicker payment in-store. Their app is part of the reason that customers love them, it's the experience beyond just good-tasting coffee.
And with apps, you can track and analyze your users’ behavior like where they click, what they watch, and more. Based on this data, you can customize how your app interacts with users.
For example, most fitness apps track and show the workouts you complete. If a user hasn’t signed in awhile, the app can automatically send a push notification reminder to start a workout.
3. Apps are for Employees Too
The most popular apps like Instagram are for consumers. But you can also develop apps to be used by your business employees.
At SPARK, we worked with CSM Group to improve their operations workflows. A custom app allows employees to do everyday tasks like submitting their time entries, expense approvals, and help desk tickets. It also serves as a centralized location to share company news and HR resources.
Apps can also help you manage remote teams. At SPARK, we often work with construction companies to digitize their operations. For our client Team Elmer's, their time entry app allows them to collect data straight from the field and track and monitor employee performance.
For business use cases, apps are an easy and simple solution to collect data and improve communication. If your employees are used to apps in their daily lives, they’ll like using them for work too.
4. Increase User Engagement
There are different features you can use to engage with users directly.
Push notifications (like the example above) allow you to send messages to users even when they are not using the app. For example, you can send a notification about a new update. Or, to remind employees to enter time for the day.
Geotargeting and geofencing
Using location and behavior data, geotargeting allows you to customize notifications by users’ physical locations. This could be as simple as sending a push notification for a coupon when someone is near your physical store.
Geofencing could be used to only let workers clock in on their mobile device when they're at a job site.
4. Improve Accessibility
With websites, users need to open an internet browser, type in the site name, and then possibly enter a password or other credentials to access what they want.
But with an app, all users need to do is to click on the app’s icon. Any login credentials can already be stored, giving instant and easy access.
And while most apps need an internet connection for full functionality, many are functional even if they’re offline.
5. Marketing Through App Stores
An often overlooked advantage of apps is the ability to promote through new channels like the app stores.
Apple’s App Store now has nearly 2 million apps available for download. And Google’s Play Store has almost 3 million.
And like other channels, you can use keywords, paid ads, and other marketing strategies to make sure your app is seen by as many people as possible. You can reach new audiences you couldn’t before.
6. Gain a Competitive Advantage
Developing your company’s own app can give you a competitive advantage. It shows that you are a forward-thinking company that cares about meeting your customers where they want: on their smartphones. And you can enhance your products and services by providing additional features and experiences.
And internal apps (apps used only for your team) can also improve your operations and boost your employees' morale.
How to Build Your Own Mobile App
If you’re ready to build your own app, there are a few steps to take. You should:
- Validate your idea (for startups building a new concept)
- Get buy-in from stakeholders (especially if you’re building an internal app)
- Calculate the ROI
- Build and test an MVP
During this process, you’ll need to evaluate and choose the right development partner to help you build a successful app.
At SPARK, we help businesses build consumer-facing and internal apps every day. Check out some of our client stories here.
When you’re ready, reach out to SPARK and see how we can bring your idea to life!