You think an app is the way forward for your business? Think again

A few years ago I met a guy whose company is a leader in app development.

I was working primarily with our text messaging platform – our Membo Noticeboard app wasn’t even an idea!

I recall he said increasingly businesses were hell-bent on building an app, and in his opinion, many, if not most, would waste their money.

In preparation for this article, I did a fair amount of reading.  Lots of people saying “mobile apps are a must-have for your business” are in the tech development space themselves – perhaps not the most objective view.

I don’t claim 100 per cent objectivity. However, with benefit of experience, I believe any business considering what can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise, must be clear about why they need an app and what to expect.

For my part, we created Membo Noticeboard to address a desperate personal problem as we supported my mother to live with Alzheimer’s dementia.

We were fortunate to be able to undertake our development work ourselves, while a colleague, who at the same time was developing her own app, did not have this option.

Naturally, it depends on what your app does and what’s at the back end, but for us, three years down the track, we would need to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $400,000 for development work completed to date.

My colleague spent just under $200,000 to get to a version of her system that could be taken to market, but she continues to incur substantial expense as she undertakes essential ongoing development.

Mobile apps – a crowded space, and users are fickle!

Statista says the Google Playstore has 4.96 million apps, Apple has 2.37 million, and 131,800 new apps are launched every month.

According to Loyalytics, in 2018 in the US, 23 per cent of apps were used once, then abandoned siting reasons like not enough space, excessive advertising and excessive notifications.

For my money, there are three questions and three considerations for any business considering developing an app.

The questions

Will your app enhance your customer experience, streamline business processes and support your existing online presence?

In truth, is your idea a solution in search of a problem rather than the other way around?

Do your competitors have an app, how do their customers rate it, and do you need one to remain competitive?

The considerations

In-house development: Anyone considering software development must understand that releasing the first version is the tip of the ice-berg.  Afterwards, there is ongoing support, and essential development including, though not frequent, new phone and tablet releases which force changes. The solution in my opinion is to bring the work in house which may mean finding a partner and importantly providing that person with the motivation to perform.

Customer demographic: There are essentially two types of apps – those for recreation and those for practical use. Proportionately Gens X & Y primarily use recreation apps, while Baby Boomers and older want functionality. You need to be sure your app fits your customers. If your app requires customers to come across you in the app store, go back and look at those statistics again!

Security: Look carefully at security, data, and privacy management and this includes not just the design of the app but also insurance, and management implications and costs.

Anne-Louise Underwood, Co-Founder, Membo Noticeboard