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Going Ape for Apps

Who doesn't love mobile apps? No question, they're changing the way we do a lot of things - particularly communicate. But does your business really need one?

Adam D 19 May 2011

Who doesn't love mobile apps? No question, they're changing the way we do a lot of things - particularly communicate (have you seen heytell.com? Unbelievable!). But does your business really need one?

I'm now starting to see apps made for the wrong reasons. We've had customers ask us to build apps for things that just don't need apps - I have to hose them down a little and help them understand why.

There is no doubt that mobile is huge - your website should have a mobile version - our new brand is being launched on July 1, and we'll certainly have a specific mobile version of our site. Nielson reported recently that smartphones account for 63% of the mobile market now, and as this continues to grow, users will require a more powerful mobile experience from the websites they visit on their phone.

mCommerce is also an incredibly fast growing industry. Of PayPal 3.6 million active customers, 400,000 (over 10%) used PayPal on their phones in 2010, purchasing 2.5 million items from a mobile device - up from 1% in 2009... 1000% growth!

It's crucial to understand however, that many brands and businesses just don't need an actual app - a mobile enabled version of your website is fine, and in many cases, even more suitable, than an app. Who, for example would download an app of the salsainternet.com.au website (except me!)? Apps are great if they actually provide extra functionality, that a person is actually likely to use, such as interacting with the phones camera or address book, for example. Even GPS can be integrated with the site (as you can see on our customers mobile site - m.oovie.com.au).

Once you build an app, you've at the mercy of the platforms of the distributors - Apple, Google & Blackberry are often altering their systems, requiring further investment in updating apps to suit. 95% of what most people want to do on an app, is available on a mobile website. In fact, business that are considering an app may want to consider a mobile site as a first step - it's quicker, cheaper, and will give you some exposure into the mobile use of your brand before you take the plunge into an app. If you build it correctly, you can also leverage existing site content, so you only update content in one place, which is then reflected in your main site, and your mobile site.

Online retailers may benefit from actually having both a website and an app - I think this could only work if you're a big brand, that users use for regular, repeat purchases! oo.com.au (only online) have both, and believe that having the oo logo in the palm of the shoppers hand is priceless. I'm not sure I agree, since you can setup a mobile site to popup a message asking you to add an icon to your home screen - which effectively then has the same effect as an app icon.

Roses Only also have an app and mobile site - again, given the brand, and it's likelihood for repeat purchases, running an app may very well be worth it - it's also likely to make the purchase process incredibly simple for the user. I can imagine getting a popup on your phone when it's a week before your wife's birthday, with a simple one click purchase to send her the same bouquet you sent her last time. Awesome use of an app for a well established, popular retail brand. Founder and CEO of Roses Only, James Stevens does agree however, that apps are not suitable for all brands - you wouldn't necessarily buy large ticket items from an app, for example.

The take-out: If your app is just about delivering simplistic content - create a mobile site instead - not an app. If you can actually deliver more useful, smart functionality that needs to either integrate with the phones technology, or something that can't be done via the web browser, then you may very well need an app.

I've love to hear your thoughts, or of any other apps that you think are note worthy for our readers.

Thanks to BRW for some of the inspiration/stats in this article.

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