Is a mobile App still the best answer for your company? Maybe not. We weigh the pros and cons.
Here at Infomedia, we place a high value on blogging. We recommitted to blogging as a core part of our business, and we have seen a tremendous benefit both in engagement and in leads. Those of us who write for the blog get a little bit competitive over whose posts do the best in Analytics. We all have to be a little bit humble, though. One post stands above them all: On June 25, 2011 the great Daniel Walters posted “The Advantages of Mobile Apps,” and traffic to that post has dwarfed the traffic to all of our other posts. That presents a little bit of a problem. Our industry changes so rapidly that a strategy that made sense three years ago isn’t necessarily the approach that you would want to take in 2014. In light of that, we thought it would be good to write an update to that post with our current thoughts.
The Advantages of Mobile Apps
In 2011, we listed several benefits of mobile Apps.
- Speed: Inconsistent network speeds mean that delivering large amounts of information through a mobile web browser can be challenging. Apps can store data on the device, so it is possible to make them more immune to network speed fluctuations.
- Volume of Information: Apps can organize large amounts of information and large files in ways that have been challenging for the web.
- Advertising: An App can keep your business in front of your clients by occupying valuable real estate on their mobile devices.
Some of these benefits have diminished over the years. Network speeds aren’t the problem that they used to be since the widespread deployment of 4G services. Responsive Design has enabled us to present large quantities of information efficiently. Apps aren’t quite the status symbol that they were. Where does that leave us in 2014?
Mobile Apps in 2014
Many things have changed over the last three years. First, the advent of responsive web design has revolutionized mobile browsing. Three years ago, the choice was between a mobile site and an app. Now, mobile sites are rarely a recommended solution. All businesses need a website, and any business that values mobile at all should have a responsive website. In 2014, the question isn’t, “Should I do a mobile site or an App?” The question we ask now is, “What can an App add to my website strategy?”
The Necessity of Apps Is Diminishing
As PCs have matured over the last 35 years, more and more of the work that we do on our computers has transitioned from applications to browsers and the web. Here at Infomedia, we replaced Microsoft Office and Apple iWork with Google Docs so that we don’t have to worry about compatibility for Mac and PC users. Many computer users are opting for Chromebooks that aren’t even capable of running software outside of the browser.
Mobile devices are following the path that computers took years ago. Mobile browsers took a giant leap forward with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, but there were still a lot of tasks that were difficult to accomplish in a browser. Apps bridged the gap by delivering a customized experience for the mobile environment. As browsers matured, and as web developers have gotten better at developing for touch interfaces, Apps aren’t necessary as often as they used to be.
The Novelty of Apps Is Wearing off
It used to be a big deal to tell folks that your company had an App. A lot of that prestige has gone away as Apps have become commonplace. Exposure in the search engines for your website and local optimization for your business are much more valuable than the remote possibility that a significant number of your clients will be impressed by your App.
Who Needs a Mobile App?
Apps still play an important role in the mobile environment. Let’s revisit the question that we posed earlier. What can an App add to my website strategy? Here are a few situations where apps can be beneficial.
Apps are great for frequently repeated and complex tasks. Think about the Apps that you use most often: mobile banking, email, maps. Would your web strategy benefit from an App that streamlines this kind of complex process for your customers?
Do you need to tap into the phone’s resources? For example, we have a client who operates a radio station. They want to stream audio in the background while the user does other things on the phone. Apps provide an enhanced approach for tapping into phone functions like audio, the accelerometer, GPS, contacts, and push notifications.
Do you need a portal for clients or employees? This relates to our first statement about frequently repeated tasks. We recently quoted an App for one of our clients who needs all of their employees to login every day to report their results. This is easy to accomplish on the web, but they believe that they will achieve a higher level of compliance when their employees can click on an icon to launch an App and instantly enter the information.
Apps play an important role in some company’s digital strategies, but they are not a miracle cure for your digital ailments. We serve a lot of e-commerce clients, and I don’t generally recommend Apps for them. The exception is merchants that have clients with frequently repeated transactions. Streamlining the order process for your high value clients can be very beneficial in that case. If that doesn’t describe your e-commerce business, then the fact that Amazon has a successful App doesn’t mean that your App will be successful.
The prescription for online success is the same as it has always been, although the specific tactics have evolved over time. Add value to the relationship by being an expert in your industry, and effectively use digital tools to share your expertise with the clients. Generate high quality content that speaks the same language as your customers. Engage with your clients. Understand who your clients are and how they look for businesses like yours. Once you are doing those things, then you can ask the question that we have posed throughout this post.