Trailblazing Technology - Creating a successful app

Regardless your business size, there are numerous benefits in developing your own app.

The ability to engage with potential customers on mobile devices is increasingly advantageous as smartphones increase their market share. An app allows you to provide consumers with a curated way to view your products and services, as well as increasing brand awareness.

It is not as easy as just creating an app though. It must serve as a fitting representation of your brand and integrate seamlessly with your operations. For every company that achieves this, many more make the most basic mistakes, wasting time and money. Never forget that creating an app can be costly and very time-consuming.

With that in mind, make sure you can answer following questions before diving into developing an app for your business.

Is expertise available?

Some aspects of creating an app are extremely technical, so the more tech-savvy you are as an SME owner, the more likely the development process will run smoothly. If, for example, you know the difference between UX and UI, as well as understanding what a wireframe is, you probably stand a better chance of achieving digital success.

It’s not essential to be a crack coder, but the ability to manage a development team and feeling comfortable working with software is vital.

Of course, solutions do exist that make it easier for a layman to deal with some of the more technical aspects of creating an app. A quick online search will deliver a range of companies that can help you build your app in a “point-and-click” style. Ultimately though, having the necessary technical knowledge will leave you in a strong position to manage the process effectively.

What’s out there?

When considering the kind of app that your business needs, you have to understand the market. What do you want your app to do? Is there already a strong solution out there?

If you are looking for an app to fulfill a specific function, do some research. The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of software services that are aimed at independent business owners, so whatever your requirements, it is almost guaranteed there is ‘an app for that’ in existence already.

Silicon Valley firms have been busy producing digital tools that cover a huge range of business functions including inventory management, timeclock, EPOS and even interactive 3D store design. The best way to identify whether there is an existing platform that would be a good fit for your business is to look for solutions that meet your minimum criteria, e.g offering cloud-based remote data access. If such a platform exists, it is likely to be a cheaper and more convenient option than building one from scratch.

How bespoke should you go?

You need to understand what your goals are. We have already mentioned that if you are looking for an app to assist with business operations, the market needs to be researched. If your desire is to build a branded, customer-facing app you need to decide how tailored it has to be.

If you are looking for something simple and effective, there are a range of tools that offer non-coding options for creating an app. Adding elements such as images, blog feeds, and forms become as simple as dragging and dropping.

The issue is that many of these apps look similar and are not as customisable as a fully coded version. If you hire a developer to design you an app from scratch, it has the potential to do almost anything. The issue though is cost, leading us to our next question...

Does the ROI add up?

Is it likely that the app you are setting out to create will justify the expenditure? Most SMBs run on tight profit margins and there will be a significant monetary investment in creating an app that meets your business needs. This means you need to establish a solid business case before embarking on the development of an app. You must define exactly what you expect to automate and what you expect to achieve as an end result.

First, work out your needs – consumers booking their own haircut appointments for example – and then figure out the business case for this function. Will it save you staffing costs because you don’t need someone manning the phone? Will it increase the number of bookings per day because consumers like the convenience? Define the benefits you expect to see in concrete monetary terms and project how long you will need to recover your initial expense. This is the only way to accurately gauge how much you could initially spend on the development, or if the build even makes sense in the first place.

Delivering an app that you can be proud of and is genuinely useful is a complex and time-consuming process. If you can answer the above questions honestly, and they all point to ‘yes’, then an app could be just the tool you need to help you take your business to the next level.

Christophe Delacroix, General Manager UK, ShopKeep

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock