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Do you really need a mobile app?

It can be strange to hear that question from someone who makes his living by conceiving mobile apps but it is a very legitimate one. And the answer is: probably not if you are a small / medium sized business. Why? Because apps are expensive to build, maintain and market and nobody wants your restaurant’s app to clutter their smartphone.
(Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash)

Well, maybe that was a little bit harsh; let’s start from the beginning: Don’t get me wrong, I am all for apps. Smartphones are extremely powerful tools for marketers and I am constantly amazed by the possibilities apps can offer to both marketers and users. However, apps are not for every organization. Most of the time a website adapted to mobile traffic (be it responsive, adaptive, or a dedicated mobile site) does the job very well. Persons responsible from these websites should implement advanced analytical tools to analyze the traffic and behaviors constantly to improve users’ experience and why not come up with an app idea based on their observation but an app is not the first answer for mobility requirements.

Most of the time however, there is a disconnect between the data and the will to build an app: the app is requested because it is sexy & trendy, not because it is in line with company requirements, customer needs or any strategic goals. Therefore, quotes for mobile apps tend to cool down customers’ ambitions who end up settling for a website or a sub-par app which doesn’t fulfill expectations and gets discarded after 6 months.

Yes, mobile apps are expensive. And not just to build but to maintain and market as well. To maintain, because when you have an app, you will have bugs, you will have new Operating Systems which will enable new features and the expectations of your users will evolve constantly. This means that you will have to update your app constantly and if you don’t users will simply leave. To market, because people will not simply go on and download your app, you have to let them know there is an app out there and more importantly, you have to convince them that it’s worth their time to download it and give it a try which is no simple feat.

So, an expensive tool for sure, but also a great one as well. If your app serves strategic objectives, you have a business model or a product which requires the use of an app, the possibilities are endless. There are a lot of parameters to get right to have a great app but it is by no means impossible: it simply requires a very good product owner from the customer side and a business- savvy contractor (if not built in-house) who will understand the business requirements and ask the right questions before giving you an estimate for your project.

How to assess if you need an app? How to approach tho whole process? What to expect and to look for when choosing a contractor? These are all questions for a next article.

PS: This article is about customer facing apps; there are also big opportunities to improve internal operations such as sales, support etc. For small and medium size companies, if existing mobile products are not a solution and there is a need for a customized app, banding up by industry to pool resources can be a solution.


Dara Hizveren has a Science degree from Strasbourg University and a MBA from Strasbourg Management School. After working as a consultant in financial services in Luxembourg, he spent a couple of years in marketing departments of international financial institutions in his hometown of Istanbul before joining a FinTech focused mobile agency. Moving back to Europe in early 2017, he created Zeplin Mobile Solutions to continue in a field which combines consulting, technology and creativity. He also teaches Digital Marketing at Strasbourg Management School and does workshops for various incubators in Luxembourg.

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  • yves

    PWA, in combination with modern client-side frameworks such as Polymer or Angular, including a service-worker to make it work offline, diminish more and more the need for a native app.

    Except of course if you need access to hardware which the browser does not give you access to.