Chances are good that the last bit of breaking news you heard was delivered to you via an app on your smartphone. Ditto for the last photo you saw. And maybe even the last email you read, song you heard, or thing you bought. Apps are amazing pieces of technology that have revolutionized…well, pretty much everything, from the way we interact with each other and businesses, to how we stay informed and entertained. And we happen to think apps—with all their awesome potential—are just the best.
In fact, we’ve spent a good amount of time building and optimizing apps for some of our coolest clients. We’ve also spent a good amount of time making the case that your brand does, indeed, need to have an app to stay competitive and innovative. And while we really do think most (if not all) brands can benefit from the unique functionalities that only mobile apps can provide, we’re also pros who have the best interest of our clients at heart—and the reality is, for some businesses and brands, a custom-built mobile app isn’t always the best way to invest precious marketing bucks.
Shocking, we know. But it’s the truth.
Here are two big reasons why an app is something your brand doesn’t need.
1. Digital marketing is effective, affordable, & highly adaptable
Sometimes it’s easy to forget what branded apps really are: highly specialized marketing channels. The appeal of branded mobile apps is that they enable brands to provide value to their core group of customers in unique, innovative, and hyper-personalized ways. However, there is only value in an app that people can use/want to download—this means being committed to the considerable investment in time, money, and resources required to create (and maintain) a quality product. So while the capabilities provided by branded apps can be effective (especially for brands that can utilize things like push notifications or location-based functionality to enhance the user experience), not all businesses or brands are going to want—or even need—to devote resources to such a big strategy when there are so many other digital marketing strategies that can deliver a bigger bang for the buck.
Email marketing, for example, continues to be the champion of marketers across all industries and is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate leads and connect with customers. Indeed, 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation. Add in the potential of social media, video, local search, SEO, content marketing, etc., and you’ve got a veritable smörgåsbord of opportunities to build and tailor campaigns that help you grow your brand—all of which are interchangeable, continuously testable, and easily scalable depending on your evolving needs.
2. Mobile web is stronger than ever
A whopping 62% of all digital media time is spent on mobile. And while nearly 90% of that mobile time is spent in apps, it’s concentrated in a very select few of them—we’re talking the Facebooks, Twitters, and Gmails of the app world. The mobile web, however, makes up for a lack of time spent there with more traffic overall. In fact, Morgan Stanley research indicates that US mobile browser audiences are 2X larger than app audiences, and have grown 1.2X faster over the past 3 years.
Remember Mobilegeddon? Google made headlines last year by announcing that the number of searches on mobile has officially surpassed that of desktop, a crucial piece of data that continues to shape the parameters and preferences of Google search rankings for websites today. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will penalize you for it by lowering your SERP rank—and many brands are seeing exactly what happens when they don’t play along (spoiler: it’s not good). The lesson here is that every brand’s priority today should be ensuring they have a website that is responsive, attentive to the mobile user experience, and optimized both for SEO and for fast loading. You should be doing this anyway—and if it’s done right it can deliver many of the same experiences and meet many of the same touchpoints that your brand might otherwise seek to provide in a branded app (often at a fraction of the cost).
While apps continue to be pumped out at a rapid pace, consumers are much more discriminating about what they download and use. In fact, Forrester research finds that users spend about 80% of all their app time in just FIVE apps! Cracking into an individual’s top five is a tough ask for any brand. Before you decide to move into development of a branded app, we recommend a little soul searching:
- Will your app deliver a specific value that consumers can’t get anywhere else?
- Will enough users download/use it to justify the cost of development and maintenance?
- Is there enough value to retain users and keep them coming back to the app again and again?
If there’s any doubt, it’s likely that your marketing budget will be better spent in another channel. The good news is that the Digital Age is ripe with opportunities and platforms for innovative ways to reach and connect with customers—an app is just one of them, and (as much as we love them) you can probably delight customers and continue to grow your brand without one.