building an app

A recent report from Nielsen sums up why small businesses need to start taking the mobile web seriously. According to the study, 79 percent of smartphone and tablet owners have used their mobile devices at some point in the purchase process. The most common use for a smartphone was finding a store, followed by checking the price, researching and reading product reviews, and using lists while shopping.

Another report by Nielsen shows smartphone adoption is rising—now at just over 50 percent of mobile subscribers—and app use is increasing as well, with the average number of apps at 41, up from 32 a year ago.

If your target market is on the web, that means your business needs to be there too. And with the rise in apps, identifying and building an app that appeals to your customers can help you get noticed, build brand recognition and keep customers coming back for more.

Free saas sales forecast template

Should I build an app? 3 things to consider

Apps have come a long way since building one required either a computer school degree or $20,000 to hire a developer. Still, small business owners need to be savvy with their marketing efforts. Here are three things to keep in mind when deciding if an app is right for you and your business.

1.Where is my audience?

There’s no doubt that smartphone use is on the rise, but there are still a lot of consumers who don’t own smartphones. Which group do your customers fall into?

For example, Pew Internet reports that smartphones are more common among consumers who are well educated, financially comfortable and under the age of 45. If your business targets senior citizens, an app might not be the way to go. If you cater to college students, it’s practically a no-brainer.

2. Is my app useful?

Apps help people get things done—see this great blog post for more specifics on why people use apps. Before you rush to get an app out there, think carefully about what your app does and why it will be useful to your customers.

For example, if you’re an event planner whose clients have a hard time staying on budget, you might create an app that helps track expenses. If you’re a designer, you might create an app that allows clients to play with color schemes or rearrange furniture layouts. Start by identifying what your clients want and then figure out how you can provide it.

3. What kind of app do I need?

Even without web developer training, you can make a few basic decisions about your app that will help you figure out where to go next.

This guide from app-development company MRC is a great introduction to determining which app format is right for you based on your goals.

DIY app resources for small business owners

As apps become more common, a number of new resources are springing up that allow small businesses to affordably develop apps. Options range from free services such as Appsbar that offer customizable templates, to Bizness Apps that help you build and maintain iPhone apps for a modest monthly fee.

Some of these companies make money by placing adds within your app and allow you to upgrade to plans that don’t include ads. When considering cost, keep in mind that publishing your app also comes with a small cost—$99 for Apple’s annual developer fee, which includes as many apps as you can create, or Android’s $25 one-time fee.

With prices like those, you can experiment with apps to see what works well for your business. Establish metrics to judge your app’s success, whether those are number of downloads, rates of coupon usage or percent of people who click through to your site, and see how customers respond.

AvatarJill Tyndale

Jill Tyndale is a writer and editor who covers education and career topics. She writes about online degree programs, social media and workplace issues, and recently signed up for her first online class.