Walk into a room of entrepreneurs and sooner or later, you’re going to run into someone who says: “I’m building an app!” Perhaps they run a web business. Maybe they own a restaurant. Or they make a physical product. It seems like everybody’s jumping on the app bandwagon, regardless of what industry they’re in.
By and large, most people who put the time and energy into creating an app end up with a negative return. For most businesses, it’s just not worth the effort. How do you know if building an app is right for your business?
Is it Part of Your Minimum Viable Product?
What is the least amount of work you need to create an operating business? If you’re in the early stages of your company, that’s the question you should focus on. If having an app isn’t part of your minimum viable product, then don’t do it.
If your company’s in a later stage, then the question changes. It becomes an ROI question.
What’s the ROI on Your Time and Money?
As a rule of thumb, assume that the project will cost double and take twice as long as you’d expect. Building apps usually come with all kinds of expenses that people just don’t expect. For instance, you might need to hire a specialized designer just to build the app icon. You might need to pay for usability testing across devices. You might need to pay app bloggers to review your app.
Money is only half the cost. Building an app is time and energy intensive for you and your staff. Even if you have dedicated developers working on it, you still need to contribute ideas and review new versions of the app.
Before jumping on the app train, ask yourself: how will this app provide a return on your investment? Will it bring in customers? Help retain existing customers? Sell additional products? Be a revenue stream of its own? If you can’t answer that question, or if you’re just building an app because it’s the trendy thing to do, then it’s probably a bad idea.
“But My Customers Keep Asking for an App!”
This is one of the biggest reasons people start building apps. Customers ask for them. Yet, believe it or not, that alone isn’t a good enough reason.
Take a Thai restaurant for example. Customers might want to be able to make reservations from their app, or see how long the wait time is from their smartphone. Yet even without an app, customers are still going to come anyway. In this case, it’s really not essential to build an app.
Yes, what customers want is important. Unfortunately, you can’t follow customer requests blindly. You must weigh the pros and cons and the investment to ROI ratio yourself. Then and only then can you make an informed decision.