Mobile apps face many challenges
It’s not without reason that the question is asked whether apps are still profitable to invest in. They face a lot of challenges and have fierce competition from other technologies that might be able to solve your problems equally well. It’s also for this reason that it is important to reflect on these challenges when determining what is most interesting for you to do.
According to Statista, the Google Play Store contained 3 148 832 apps in the fourth quarter of 2020. The Apple Store had 2 098 224 apps available that time. That's a whole lot of apps. Based on these figures you could say mobile apps are definitely not dead yet. But it’s also proof of the existence of the so-called App Jungle. It’s not easy, maybe even impossible, to market your app and gain a solid base of users when there are so many apps competing for that same attention.
Following this, more than 70% of app users' time is spent on their top three apps. Even though there are millions of choices, people tend to stick with their most preferred ones. You could say there is a ‘the winner takes all’ story behind the success of a mobile app.
Next, users have multiple devices and expect continuity & a consistent user experience. Supporting multiple devices can be very costly depending on the chosen technology. In addition, apps provide mainly positive results in terms of brand awareness. It’s a lot harder to actually make a profit. And as if that were not enough, you have to pay Google and Apple to make your app available in their stores.
Mobile apps also face competition from other technologies that provide a similar solution to some business requirements. A sophisticated web app for example could be a great alternative since web apps are constantly evolving and offer lots of functions that you would look for in a mobile app. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the perfect example. They’re apps written in web technology that behave just as if they were mobile apps, at least to some extent. This gives the user an emulated native experience, the ability to work offline and so much more. Many companies see the benefits of PWAs, and rightly so. In the right circumstances, PWAs can be the better solution at a lower cost.
Is it still profitable to invest in a mobile app?
It is certainly worthwhile for a company to invest in a mobile application, for various reasons. A number of advantages make it interesting to invest in an app. Of course, these benefits are not a given for every use case but, let’s have a look:
Mobile apps are especially suitable when you want to use them for marketing purposes. They’re, in particular, easy to use and fit perfectly in your ‘always accessible’ strategy (since smartphones are always in one's pockets). They allow you to connect with your customers anywhere, anytime. You may think that adding your app to the App Jungle is useless. But, we see that it’s still a good idea to be mobile first. Users spend 20 times more time on mobile apps in comparison with mobile websites and people still spend more than half of their screen time on mobile phones.
Mobile apps can contain many advanced features. For example, access to specific hardware on your device (camera, NFC, fingerprint,...) is easiest via a mobile app. Furthermore, compute-intensive features such as AR and AI applications can very easily run as a mobile app because of multi-threading and specific hardware that can be used for such features. For a web app, this is much more difficult as you might quickly run into performance issues due to more limited resources. Apart from that, only a mobile application can offer a real mobile experience. Think for example about animations, screen transitions, deep-linking between apps, …
Increase customer engagement
Apps can encourage both potential and current customers to connect with your company and keep doing so. In fact, mobile apps have three times the engagement of mobile web. You can interact with your customers in various ways, making it easy for them to engage with your brand. A mobile app gives them a convenient way to do things, which in turn improves the customer experience. For example, if you run a shop, you can improve the in-store shopping experience by implementing self-scan functionality.
Brand awareness & loyalty
To go back to the premise of a mobile app in function of marketing, they’re also good for brand awareness and building loyalty. For example, they can be used for loyalty programs (e.g. saving points) or for increasing the interactions with your brand through, for example, push notifications.
Mobile apps give you the opportunity to increase your revenue. If you’ve implemented an app to digitise some of your internal processes, it will probably make your business more efficient and cost-effective. Or, if your mobile app aims to serve your customers, it can boost your sales. A very intuitive and easy purchasing process improves the customer experience. This in turn has a positive impact on sales. It is even stated that mobile apps convert three times better than mobile websites.
Mobile apps aren’t your only choice
So, yes, it can still be beneficial to invest in a mobile app. But, as noted above, it is not an appropriate choice for every use case. A mixture of different needs will ensure you prefer one specific solution over another. If these advantages do not work out in your particular case, another digital solution will. For example, you may consider developing a web app, which is especially appropriate for intensive data input or if you require an application that is available everywhere regardless of the device. A PWA, in turn, is preferable if you want a website that is also available offline or if you want a quick win that makes your website available as an "app" with hardly any extra cost.
It’s important to figure out which software will make your business grow. But let’s agree on one thing, mobile apps are not dead and can still be interesting to invest in. If you would like more detailed advice on which solution will meet your business needs, be it a mobile app, web app, PWA or any other custom creation, feel free to book a free consultation with us!
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