In 2008, when Apple opened its original App Store it had 500 apps available for download. In 2009, they even started using the phrase, “there’s an app for that” in TV ads to illustrate just how many apps there were. At that time, however, it was more aspirational marketing than anything else because there clearly was not an app for everything you could possibly think of. Today, there just might be.
Number of apps in the Apple Store in 2021:
What’s Driving App Development?
For one, people are spending more time on their phones than ever before. As a result, they’re also demanding more from their phones in the form of improved, seamless mobile experiences. Those two facts alone are why more and more businesses are choosing to invest in developing mobile apps of their own.
There’s also another reason that’s driving this mobile app development surge, and it has to do with market penetration. Market penetration measures how much a product or service is being used by customers compared to the total estimated market for that product or service. An above-average market penetration rate for consumer goods is estimated to be between 2% and 6%². So, if your market penetration falls anywhere within that range, you should be very happy.
According to Statista, there are currently 6.4 billion smartphone users worldwide. As you read this sentence, the global population is 7.9 billion. That’s a smartphone penetration of over 80%³. To be clear, that means that 80% of the people on this planet out of all the people on this planet own a smartphone. To answer the question as to what’s driving app development? In a word, us.
Roughly 62% of businesses already have an app
or are in the process of developing one.⁴
How Mobile Apps Benefit Your Business
While increased mobile phone app development obviously benefits users with more app choices and improved overall mobile experiences, businesses also benefit in several ways by putting money where their mobile is:
Provides Added Value to Your Customers
When someone looks for your product or service, it’s imperative to keep that person engaged. A mobile app gives you an innovative and inviting way to not just interact with your customers but to also promote special offers.
Helps Build Your Brand
An app can promote brand awareness and recognition among customers. In-app messaging offers very targeted user communications, increasing the likelihood that customers will commit to your brand.
Increases Site Visits
By incorporating loyalty programs into your app, customers will be more likely to revisit your store (be it digital, or physical) and purchase.
Gives You a Competitive Edge
Compared to conventional websites, mobile apps do a better job catering to the consumers’ “need for speed.” That capability doesn’t just benefit the consumer but can literally mean the difference between someone purchasing from you versus your competitor.
Uncovers Valuable Consumer Insights
It’s almost impossible to do business today without customer insights. A mobile app can serve as a reliable and valuable source of those insights.
Challenges to Mobile App Development
While the benefits of investing in mobile development are compelling, as with all undertakings, it’s not without its challenges. Common challenges businesses face when developing mobile apps include:
There Are Lots of Apps
Literally millions. Unless you can figure out a way to make your app stand out in the market you’re going to face a long, uphill climb. So, study the competition, read good and bad reviews, and find an “opening” so your app will stand out.
While everyone wants to design an app that draws the attention of a vast audience, not everyone is able to come up with an app that caters to the customer’s requirements. Who is your audience? Do they use an Apple or Android device? Without answers to these questions, you’re not going to get far.
It Isn’t Cheap
Forrester found that 62% of companies reported spending more than $500,000 to create just one to three apps. 13 percent said that they spent $5 million or more to do so.⁵
Mobile apps evolve pretty quickly. The reason being that user behavior in the mobile app industry doesn’t favor sticking to one product when the latest alternatives are accessible. Consequently, the lifecycle of any mobile app is limited to when a superior app comes along.
Marketing the App
Creating it is one thing; making it popular is another. Not just anyone or any platform can promote an app well. You need the right people to develop the right promotional strategy. If you don’t, the only people who discover the app will be the development team.
How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Mobile App Development
If you’ve already decided to invest the time and money in developing a mobile app, or are just considering it, there are several things you can do to avoid the above pitfalls, starting with:
Don’t Skip the Strategy
If you don’t define the business or user problem that you’re trying to solve with the app, you may end up spending time and money developing features or functionality that you don’t need, or building a platform that is not supported by your users. If 90% of your customers are on iOS devices, why spend time on cross-platform development?
Take the time to define your success metrics. Is it registrations? Downloads? Sales? Your success metrics will greatly impact your strategy, development approach, and costs
Keep an Eye on the Competition
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the competition in solving the problem(s). It will give you ideas for design and functionality, as well as a sense of which features are considered “table stakes,” and where you can go above and beyond to differentiate yourself as a brand or company.
What are the Technical Requirements?
Not gathering a complete set of technical requirements prior to development can lead to wasted time and cost. If you know your app has to integrate with other tools or databases, you need to approach the project with that in mind.
Define Your MVP
If you spend too much time developing the “perfect” app before you launch, you often miss the window of getting a good product into the market in a timely manner. Put your minimum viable product out there and get feedback directly from users to inform the next phase of the app.
Prioritize Within the Product Roadmap
Prioritize the features and functionality you want to invest in, and the order in which to invest, based on the value to the user and/or the business, as well as feedback from users utilizing the app in the market.
Don’t Underestimate Cost
The cost of mobile app technology, expanding features, optimizing the experience, investing in marketing, and business operational costs can be quite expensive. Some businesses only focus on the original costs of development but don’t budget for maintenance costs or marketing, and it causes the app to fail.
Have a Documented Testing Plan
This step is critical to mobile development because there are so many different types of phones and platforms. Additionally, underestimating or short cutting testing will result in users finding your bugs.
Don’t Overlook Marketing
You need to have a clear plan to get the app to users. It’s not enough to just put it in the app store and think people will find it. SEO and marketing play an important role for users to discover the app, and of course, getting existing users to favorably rate your app is important to build credibility for future users.
Create a Feedback Loop
If you’re thinking that you’ll get feedback based on customer reviews in the app store, think again. Reviews would not be your feedback loop because negative reviews can not be taken down. You need to set up usability testing prior to launching using simple services such as Usertesting.com for example. Also, set up funnels in Google Analytics to capture GA data that can be used to inform your product strategy.
Best Get a Move On
For any business looking to compete in a world that grows more digital by the day, an app can no longer be considered a “nice to have.” Sure, in 2008 most companies possessed a “maybe, someday” attitude when it came to developing an app because it was new technology and nobody really knew how smartphone users would react to them (except maybe Steve Jobs). Well, we certainly know now. So, start planning your app development strategy today, after all: there are about 6.4 billion people just waiting to see what you come up with.
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