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Should You Design a Mobile App?

Feb 9, 2012 10:29:00 AM

In the past few months, we've covered basic tutorials on your mobile web design options, concentrating on responsive web design and mobile site design. Lastly, we'll touch upon the Apple-inspired creation of mobile applications, their growing popularity, and whether or not they are right for your business.

According to analytics firm Flurry, in the past year mobile app usage has surpassed web usage in the United States in terms of the number of minutes spent on each platform per day. By December, Americans were spending 94 minutes a day on apps and 72 minutes online (both on mobile and desktops).

The same study found that the most popular and most used apps were gaming or social networking applications (49 and 30 percent, respectively). Entertainment and news followed. Not terribly surprising considering Facebook's domination, Twitter's need for constant involvement, and the phenomenon of Words with Friends and Angry Birds.

These analytics may flip your mobile switch and inspire you to invest in developing an app for your brand. So, how do you know if creating a mobile app is worth your time?

Consider Your Industry and App Purpose

Designing and developing an app can be a lengthy and costly process, so the first step is to ask yourself: what purpose would this app serve? Ecommerce companies will have an easier time with this. An app that makes mobile shopping easier may be a worthwhile investment to boost sales and rid shopping cart abandonment that comes when the checkout process is too lengthy.

Department store bigwig Nordstrom's app has a simple navigation bar at the bottom that allows you to quickly switch between shopping by department or brand and accessing your shopping bag.

 

Nordstrom mobile app

This serves a specific mobile shopping function, and promotes conversions by streamlining the buying process. Many other Ecommerce companies utilize the same app layout with quick browsing and check out features, including Gilt Groupe and Sephora.

If your business isn't this straightforward, have a brainstorming session of creative and effective apps that can be developed to increase customer usage, retention, and conversion. A good app can:

  • Make the customer pathway easier and leads to more conversions
  • Provide something unique to the visitor
  • Encourage social sharing and interaction (think of the Foursquare boom)
  • Revolutionize a basic mobile element (Instagram changed the way we upload and share photos)

Also, if you're a gamification company or growing social network, then what are you waiting for?

Can B2B Mobile Apps Add Value to the Market?

As always, B2B companies are having a difficult time finding their niches in the mobile market. It's hard to establish immediate value when your business is a little more nuanced. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't space for B2B brands. In fact, this area of mobile marketing is poised for growth.

Here are some ideas to get you started with a B2B app plan:

  • Streamline your content in an app dedicated to industry news, insights, and beneficial content
  • Look at the process your customers typically go through and address any needs; is there one question that continually comes up? Create an app that answers common client needs
  • Create an event-specific app to promote an important upcoming company conference or trade show
  • Create a calculator or other "tool" that your customers can use
  • Adapt software to an app (like the Adobe Reader app)

There's always room for creativity in an area like this. What's necessary is a long look at where there are gaps in the market, and how your app can serve those needs or the needs of your customer.

So, any ideas?

Tags: web development / technology / web design / mobile