These days it seems like everywhere you go, you are asked to download an app. From the local grocery store to the beauty salon and even your favorite pizza joint, everyone has an app – and they all claim to be just the thing you need to improve your experience with the business.
How many of those apps live up to the hype, though? How many meet your expectations? How many do you continue to use after the initial download – which was most likely so you could score a discount or other perk?
Chances are, not many. Research shows that fewer than 25 percent of apps are ever opened again after the first day–and by the end of the first week, fewer than 11 percent of new apps are opened.
Despite those grim statistics, though, apps can still be a useful marketing method for your business (or even form the backbone of your business) and engage your customers. The trick is to follow best practices for app development, and remember some of these important lessons learned by those who came before you.
1. Identify the purpose for your app
Before you even start thinking about the design of your app and all of the cool things it will be able to do, stop and think about the purpose of your app. Why are you developing an app? What do you hope customers will gain from downloading the app? How will it make life easier for your customers, and keep them engaged with your business?
In other words, what’s the point? Remember there are at least 1,000 new apps added to the App Store and Google Play every day. How many of them are actually useful, or were just apps for the sake of apps? Don’t waste time developing an app just because you think you need one, but rather work toward creating an app that enhances your customers’ experience and makes them want to use it.
2. Market your app
Apps don’t become successful just because they exist. If you invest in the resources to create an app, then you need to invest in marketing it and enticing users to download and use it. Let customers know that you have an app via existing marketing, and make it easier for them to download it.
Don’t forget to give them a reason to download. For instance, a local beauty salon launched an app and sent an email to all existing customers, posted on social media, and encouraged stylists to talk about the app with customers and show them the features. As a reward for downloading, customers received a discount on their next service–and a new points program awards discounts and freebies to clients who continue to use the app.
3. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
Let’s face it–it’s pretty hard to find an entirely original app, what with literally millions of apps on the market. However, your app doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be successful. Many apps do similar things, just with minor differences.
Perhaps you want to launch a car sharing business, for instance. Don’t feel like your app has to be completely different than every other car sharing app; after all, how many people have both the Uber and Lyft apps on their devices? Don’t worry about making your app completely original. Focus on making it work well, taking the best parts of other apps and leaving out the fluff.
4. Keep it simple
How many times have you downloaded a new app and thought, “Wow, that’s a pretty cool feature!” And then the developer releases another new feature… and another. Suddenly what was a useful app is suddenly bloated and hard to use – and you don’t use half of the features on it anyway.
When you develop and maintain your app, be careful to avoid feature creep. Just because a feature is cool, or just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. When designing your app, always keep the end users in mind and what will be most useful to them. Don’t dilute the purpose of your app with an overwhelming array of features. Focus on what is most useful to your customers, and edit carefully.
5. Think long-term
Many app developers have failed because they are too focused on short-term gains, especially when it comes to monetizing apps. For instance, rather than allow for a free download, they charge 99 cents for the app–and then meet customer resistance when they ask for more money for premium features.
A more effective strategy is to think in the long-term: Allow users to download the app for free, offer plenty of functionality, but make it enticing to shell out for paid features. Over time, this strategy will lead to larger gains, and an overall more successful app.
6. Don’t forget about app branding
Finally, your app should be a reflection of your brand. Remain consistent, in everything from the appearance of the app (i.e., colors, fonts, etc.) to the overall feeling of the app. Customers should know that it’s really you they are dealing with.
Application development isn’t easy, and it’s not something to be done on a whim. However, if you follow these lessons, you have a better chance at success, and your business will be better for it.
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