Does your business need a mobile app? What kind?

Mobile App Cupcakes

Half of the US population now owns a smartphone – up from just 38% in 2011. The mobile web marketing space is in a phase of rapid growth and it’s got business owners and marketers alike on their toes. We’re downloading more apps then ever before and spending more than 80% of time with our mobile devices using apps. Apps make our lives easier. We turn to them to connect with people, plan our days and our lives, see the news…and play Angry Birds.

As app use continues to increase, adding an app to your mobile marketing strategy starts to make more sense. It’s one of the best ways to keep your customers engaged while on the go. But does your business really need one? Did you know there are different types of apps?

Questions to ask yourself before you think about developing a mobile app

1. Are your customers mobile? This one is obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You may be seeing an increase in traffic to your mobile site, but it’s important to dig deeper and make sure your current and potential customer base is indeed using the technology. If they are, which devices/platforms (iPhone, Android, etc.) are they using?

2. How will my app engage customers? The average user has 41 apps on their device. What service or information will your app provide to make it useful and prompt the user to keep using it? This is an important question to answer before you spend the time and resources developing an app. If it’s not useful or if another app delivers the same service in a better way, you run the risk of being forgotten – even deleted. Make sure you can set yourself apart and provide value.

3. Can you keep the content fresh? This is where engagement comes in again. Engaged users are vital to an app’s success. Keeping your app updated with new content will keep users interested and engaged. If you are providing useful services or information in the first place, keeping the content fresh should be almost automatic.

If you know that your customers are mobile users and that you can fulfill a specific need while keeping users engaged – an app might be right for your business.

Native App. Web App. Hybrid App. What the app?

Yes, there are different kinds of apps. We won’t get too techy on you, but it’s good to know what’s out there if you are considering an app. Here’s a quick rundown to get you familiar.

Native Apps – Fast and reliable, these apps are built from the ground up for their specific platform (iOS or Android). They run on the mobile device, meaning that they can operate independently of the web on your smartphone – without internet access – and can access the phone’s hardware (think GPS, camera). Almost all games are native apps. Native apps are made available in the app store.

Web Apps – This type of app is a mobile web site. Dedicated web apps are tailored to specific mobile platforms (Android, iOS). They are not available in the app store.

Generic Mobile Apps – The simplest type of “app”, generic mobile apps are also mobile web sites, but they’re designed to match every type of web-enabled phone. These generally work on feature phones, not just smartphones. They are not available in the app store.

Hybrid Apps – As the name implies, these apps offer the best of both worlds. They can access the phone’s hardware like a native app and they also have cross-platform compatibility like web apps do. Hybrid apps are developed using existing frameworks (there are several out there) and they are available in the app store.

There you have it. A crash course in the evolving world of apps. Is an app for you? If so, how will you engage customers?

Photo credit: broxsg