“Does a brand really need an app to succeed today?” is a question many companies ask themselves when evaluating their mobile strategy. However, there is no simple answer to this question, and for this reason, we’ve created this guide to help you determine if your brand really needs a mobile app to succeed in today’s economy.

An app isn’t just a distribution medium. It’s a communications channel and if you use it right, apps can help you learn from, adapt to, and engage with your customers, so that you can address their needs while simultaneously meeting your business objectives.

Here are a few stats to illustrate the tremendous amount of opportunity for the mobile app development industry in the coming years. As of March 2017, there were 2.8 million available apps on the Google Play Store and 2.2 million apps in Apple’s App Store. In 2015, global mobile app revenues amounted to 69.7 billion U.S. dollars and by 2020, mobile apps are projected to generate up to 188.9 billion U.S. dollars in revenue streams via app stores and in-app advertising.

Websites undoubtedly offer many benefits to strengthen a brand’s customer experience, however, having an online presence alone is no longer sufficient. Back when websites were new and innovative, people thought online shopping with carts, live chats, etc. were ingenious. Websites are essential today, particularly with e-commerce brands. Similar to the growth of website development in the last decade, apps are no longer a novelty. They’re part of a larger strategy that companies shouldn’t ignore due to their brand building potential.

Customer Expectations Are Shifting

Customers are demanding convenience. They want instant access to information, ability to explore options, regardless of where or when. And importantly, they expect their experiences with companies to be extremely relevant to them.

If your brand doesn’t include mobile, you’re not putting yourself where your customers are. And as a consequence, you’re missing out on major opportunities to connect, engage, influence, transact, and support your current and potential customers.

Top 6 Signs Your Brand Needs A Mobile App

The shift to mobile has gotten many companies realizing that they need to target their customers in a more personalized way. To have an effective mobile strategy, brands have the ability to interact with their customers from any place, at any time. That’s not to say that you should build an app just because your customers are spending a lot of time on their smartphones. Your app needs to offer value beyond what other platforms (such as your website) offer. Here are 5 telltale signs you should develop a mobile app for your brand.

If you get a lot of mobile traffic to your website: This one is obvious. If you’re receiving a lot of mobile traffic to your website, it’s a telltale sign that you should develop a mobile app. You should be identifying when and where your users are interacting with your brand. Are they visiting your website on the go? A lot of mobile traffic on your website means that customers want to engage with your brand on their smartphone so you need to help them out and offer them a personalized, mobile experience. Make it easy and effortless for your customers.

If your customers are a younger demographic: A comScore report indicates that people who fall in the age group of 18 to 24 years of age use more mobile apps than any other group. They are followed closely by 25 to 34 year-olds.

Another study found that almost 50% of millennials have downloaded a shopping app on their phone and over 27% use retail apps shop using apps to take advantage of exclusive offers and discounts. These statistics prove that millennials above all other age groups are looking for mobile experiences.

Your company is e-commerce based: Although you may be getting a lot of sales through your e-commerce website, have you considered your mobile shoppers? Don’t just rely on shoppers via your website. A mobile app can boost profitability with specials, push notifications, and so on. Your core customer base is demanding loyalty integration, richer shopping experiences, and new ways to engage with your brand.

If you have a brick and mortar store: Statistics show that shoppers are already using retail apps during their in-store visits. More than half of shoppers who have retail apps use them while shopping in-store, for reasons like redeeming in-store discounts, finding products, and viewing product ratings and reviews. Leveraging the data collected about your customers can help you personalize the in-app experience while shoppers are in-store, which can not only enhance the experience but streamline the path to purchase and drive in-store sales.

If you can offer more value beyond your website: The first step in any mobile strategy is understanding what your customers want from your brand. Can you provide them with even more value via a mobile app? How can a mobile app address a pain point for them? The more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to address the pain point they’re looking to solve.

If your competitors have a mobile app: If your competitors already have a mobile app, you’re behind on the game. It’s not too late to gain that competitive edge. What are your competitors doing well? Where can they improve? Don’t build an app that already exists. Offer your users a unique experience that provides more value than any of your competitors.

The Benefits Of Developing A Mobile App

Mobile has become rapidly integrated into our lives. According to new data released in March, consumers spend up to 5 hours per day on their mobile devices and time spent in mobile apps had increased 69% year-over-year. We know apps play an essential role in our everyday lives, but how can your brand benefit from mobile app development?

1. Enhance the Customer Experience

Building an app all comes down to one overarching goal and that is to enhance the overall customer experience. It’s an app completely designed around making the customer experience as frictionless as possible, and its functionality is entirely aligned with the company’s core business function.

From a brand’s perspective, your mobile app is more than just a catalog of your products. Your app offers another channel for your customer to interact with your brand. It not only enhances your retail experience, but also offers its own, critical experience. Properly leveraged, your mobile app can be a great evangelist for your brand.

2. Increase Brand Visibility

If your customers repeatedly see your brand’s app on their phone whenever they use it, your brand sticks in their subconscious. However, brand awareness only goes so far. If you want to strengthen your customer-brand relationship, you need to provide your users with a great deal of value to keep them coming back. Pinpoint a pain your customers are having so you can offer a mobile app solution that will make their life easier, encouraging them to use your app frequently. For example, apps that offer rewards to their users, or special in-app promotions, encourage users to return and get them to convert. Developing a mobile app will increase brand visibility, but one that offers your customers a great deal of value will strengthen your brand’s image overall.

3. Boost Customer Engagement

Another way to strengthen a customer-brand relationship is to engage with users in a meaningful and memorable way. How do your customers want to communicate with your brand? No one wants to wait for a representative from a call center. Users these days want immediate, personalized communication.

Additionally, a mobile app will allow you to connect with your customers directly, sending them relevant and personalized information.

The more aligned the experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely they are to continue to use the app. Help them engage with your brand with the least amount of effort. This all contributes to the overall user experience. If the user is satisfied with the app experience, it will amount to better ratings, reviews, and users will spread the word, which means more downloads.

4. Gain A Competitive Edge

Building a mobile app also allows your brand to stand out amongst your competition. Your customers will recognize that you’re finding a solution to address a problem they’re having. Customers notice the brands that are adapting over the ones that aren’t as their needs evolve. Don’t fall behind when your competition is giving your customers what they want, when they want it.

5. Generate Additional Revenue

If you are looking to boost conversions, mobile apps are a great medium to push users further down the conversion funnel because they encourage repeat conversions from customers that are on the go. Additionally, you can generate revenue from advertising and app downloads if your app is pay per download.

What Do Mobile Apps Offer That Websites Don’t?

When it comes to mobile apps, users often switch over from a mobile website to the brand’s mobile app due to convenience and the ability to navigate faster. But mobile apps offer a lot more than responsive websites besides convenience. One of the main reasons why mobile apps offer a richer experience is because of the accessibility of device features. Some include the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on. Some others worth mentioning include:

Biometrics: Newer mobile devices are designed with more advanced technology, and apps are now being built to leverage these tools. With biometrics such as fingerprint-scanning and retina identification, devices are now able to confirm a users identity, allow them to make purchases, and the list goes on.

Camera functionalities: Many mobile apps take advantage of device cameras so that users can complete tasks such as refilling a perscription, depositing cheques, and so on. A few examples include the Walgreens app and CIBC.

Augmented reality: Augmented reality is top of mind for many companies. With the continuous release of AR integrated apps, there’s no surprise that development of augmented reality will continue to skyrocket. This year, Apple unveiled a game-changer that will help developers build more immersive experiences with the new ARkit. This will transform the way customers interact with brands.

Mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if you need access to a user’s camera or processing power a mobile app is a much better option.

Is A Mobile-Friendly Website Enough?

There are obvious benefits to having both apps and responsive websites, however, they don’t offer the same user experience. Mobile optimized websites are key to any company’s success, however, they provide the user with a completely different experience. With responsive design, a website can double as a mobile experience, but it is limited by the mobile browser. If your mobile website has browser latency, for example, it may result in negative brand experience.

Research proves that the mobile experience plays a huge role in how customers perceive a brand, which inevitably determines how they will interact and engage with it.

With the shift to mobile, companies now need to understand how consumer behaviors are changing. Mobile apps can be built for different platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. which allows each experience to be optimized according to user preferences, and to the device for which it’s built. When you’re considering expanding your brand to a mobile app, consider a few things. Is your website delivering everything your brand can offer? How can you provide your users with even more value? Will a mobile app solve a problem for them?

An app is essentially an extension of your brand and a means for companies to further engage with their customers. If your website is offering enough for your customers, then an app may not be the best investment. However, customers want hyper-personalized experiences and immediacy. For this reason, the shift in user behaviors over the last decade is an opportunity to expand your brand’s mobile strategy beyond a mobile-friendly website.