Do you have a great app idea for your business, but think you can’t afford to have your dream realized? Some online app-cost calculators report that even a simple app will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and for most small and medium sized businesses, that’s out of the question.

The good news is, great apps can be developed for a fraction of that cost with smart planning. In this article we’ll explain the benefits, best practices, and how to start making your app a reality for under $50k.

App Store

Photo by ParampreetChanana, CC0 1.0

Why You Need an App

No matter how small or local your business is, apps come with a number of benefits. Market your products to customers on a paperless platform (say goodbye to fliers and take-out menus!) available at their fingertips. At the same time, make it easier and more convenient for your customers to contact you or place orders through the app.

Even when your customers aren’t using your app, having your logo as an icon on their mobile device goes a long way toward building subconscious brand loyalty. Since most Americans spend hours a day on their mobile devices, giving them the chance to see your brand multiple times a day.

Here are some recommended features and best practices for business mobile apps:

  • If customers can make purchases from your app or place orders, give them as many options as possible to pay. Cash, credit and Paypal are standard, but consider your customer demographic and how they pay. International customers, for example, may use a service like Payoneer.
  • Make it easy for customers to leave feedback or contact you through the app. This may mean linking to social networks to gain followers, or appealing for a review (of your app, product, or company) for some free marketing.
  • Loyalty programs work really well for businesses that depend on repeat customers. Have them scan their receipt or check-in on Facebook to get loyalty points, for example. Walmart has taken a unique approach to their loyalty program with their Savings Catcher option, allowing customer to scan receipts and get back the difference in savings if they had shopped elsewhere. Be creative.
  • Remember you have to compete with your customer’s other favorite brands and games for space on their app list. Make yours is engaging, fun to use, and update it frequently with new information, coupons, product pages, or whatever marketing strategy you use.

How Much it Really Costs

Now that you know how beneficial business apps are, and understand the basic principles of a successful one, let’s get down to cost.

Again, depending on who you ask, some sources will quote you hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop even the simplest apps. These figures are often quoted based on the figures of $100/hr or $150/hr labor costs. That is incredibly unrealistic. The actual figures are much easier to swallow, especially when you consider the international market.

According to a research, the actual cost of developing an app, taking into consideration international labor costs for both qualified and highly qualified individuals, is more like $50/hr, and can be as low as $20/hr. With that in mind, the whole process will take between 250-1000 hours for a standard app. That means that your app could be made for as little as $5,000 (for a bare-minimum) or as much as $50,000 (for a fully-functional app developed by highly-qualified professionals).

Who you hire should depend not just on your budget, but on basic research into their past projects and actual abilities. Saving money in the short term on foreign workers is appealing and often works out very well, but remember that you get what you pay for. Strike a fine balance between cost, efficiency and skill when it comes to hiring your team.

Even more accessible, there are now several services available which allow businesses to develop apps without the need for coding or specialized employees. BuildFire and AppsBuilder are just a few, and these services usually charge an affordable monthly fee.

Convinced Yet?

Hopefully you’ve been reinvigorated by the good news in this article, which building your business’s app doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For as little as a few thousand dollars, you could be racking up downloads sooner than you thought!