Building a Mobile App For Your Business? Usefulness is Key…

According to a new study released by comScore, this year marks the first time that the majority of all digital media consumption occurs on mobile apps. That sounds like great news, right? Like an excellent reason to jump on the mobile bandwagon and create an app for your business – EXCEPT most mobile users don’t download apps anymore.

Here are few key stats from the comScore study. Please note that all of these numbers refer to the United States.

  • Mobile app usage accounts for 52% of time spent on digital media, 60% if you include mobile browsers. Desktop accounts for the remaining 40%.
  • App usage accounts for 88% on smartphones and 82% on tablets.
  • 65.5% of smartphone users don’t download any apps in a given month while 34.5% download 3 apps per month.
  • The top 7% of smartphone owners account for nearly half of all download activity in a month.
  • Most app activity (nearly 3 out of every 4 minutes) occurs on an individual owner’s top 4 apps. 42% of all app time is spent on an individual’s single most used app.

(Follow the link at the end of this post to download a copy of the study.)

Although smartphone owners are consuming the majority of digital media on their apps, a lot of consumers have already downloaded all of the apps they will have on their devices. Additionally, most of their time is spent on their top 4 apps, and for most people that’s Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Amazon, or eBay.

The mobile app market is oversaturated. With over 1 Million apps available in the Apple App Store alone, it seems like everybody and their mother has a new app these days. However, there are still good reasons to consider building an app for your business:

  • It provides a useful service that a traditional brick and mortar storefront or website cannot accomplish (e.g. hailing a cab to your location when you’re lost, finding singles near you when you’re downtown).
  • It simplifies tasks (e.g. depositing checks into your bank account, scanning pill bottles to refill prescriptions at your local pharmacy).

On the other hand, there’s a chance your app idea is bad if:

  • It’s strictly informational and lists information that can be found easily on search engines without even having to click into your website.
  • It’s built with a template used for countless other apps, therefore it’s not unique enough or enticing enough to get people to download it.

Still interested in building an app for your business? Here are some things to consider:

What are trying to accomplish?

Sometimes an idea for an app sounds good, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense for your specific business. Think about what value your app could provide to your customers. Can your customers accomplish the same things at your business or online with the same ease? If the answer is yes, go back to the whiteboard and continue brainstorming. Give your customers a reason to download your app and use it frequently.

Do we really need an app for that?

There’s a great scene in HBO’s Silicon Valley where Richard (main character) is buying a margarita machine for his startup, and the store clerk is trying to sell him his parking app idea – an app that helps people remember where they parked. Here’s the conversation:

– So you just write down what section of the parking lot you’re in? Why do you need an app for that?
– So you can remember where you parked.
– Right, but why don’t you just write it down on a piece of paper?
– Well, yeah, but this is for your phone.
– So it’s just sorta like a notepad?

Not every real world problem needs a mobile app solution.

(Here’s the clip. Warning: explicit language at 00:35. This is an HBO show after all…)

How will you determine ROI?

If your app is free to download and use, how will you measure ROI? The ad buying and selling infrastructure is not quite there yet on mobile platforms, so you can’t count on advertising dollars to recoup the costs – especially if you can’t get anyone to use your app. Some apps are only available to users who are subscribers of other services (think Netflix and HuluPlus). However, this model doesn’t work for all businesses either. Some apps are extremely expensive to build, and you want to make sure it’s worth the cost. Think about how the app fits into your business model and how long you’re willing to wait to get your ROI.

We’re not trying to scare anyone off from building an app, but we are trying to prevent a potential financial disaster. Many companies and individuals have lost thousands of dollars building an app that no one downloads. While it’s hard to predict which apps go viral, it’s not hard to do your due diligence before jumping on the mobile app bandwagon.


Further Reading:

The U.S. Mobile App Report | comScore

Are we in a mobile app glut? Report says most US phone owners aren’t downloading apps |

Majority Of Digital Media Consumption Now Takes Place In Mobile Apps | TechCrunch