Where are you spending your marketing dollars? If you believe in the business rulebook that commands that you market where you’re likely to draw the most engagement, I’d like to make a compelling case for creating a mobile app for your business. After all, smartphones are the holy grail of engagement today.
An average smartphone user spends more than two hours a day using various apps. For a lot of people, that’s more time than they spend watching TV or reading a newspaper. So that’s clearly where you need to focus your marketing efforts, if you wish to engage your audience and really market your business.
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Things to know about developing the first mobile app for your business.
In fact, mobile apps do more, much more, than any other form of customer engagement, be it billboards, TV and print advertising or other promotions. Mobile apps actually let you interact with and become a part of your customers’ daily life. Most people check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up. If they have a beautiful message from you with probably a nifty offer they cannot ignore, you are effectively a part of their morning and probably headed for a long and profitable relationship with them. That’s the magic of mobile apps.
However, if the seeming complexity of creating the first mobile app for your business is stopping you from getting started, we’ve got just the thing for you. Here’s an infographic that will help you wrap your head around the entire app development process, making it simple to understand and easy to follow. It breaks down all the steps involved and lets you course through all the important parts, giving you all the answers you always wanted but didn’t to where to get.
Now while it’s very likely that you’ll hire an app development company to do the actual work for you, having a good understanding of the process will enable you to not only choose the best development company but also, lead the charge and work with them effectively to make sure they develop just the app you envisioned. Developing an app for your business requires answering a number of critical questions and making some tough choices. Having a handle on the basic process will enable you to effectively answer questions like which platform to develop for first, which features to include now and which to add later and many more. So read on to find out everything you need to know about developing the first mobile app for your business.
Infographic: Beyond an Idea: Creating The First Mobile App For Your Business
Steps for creating the first app for your business.
So as you saw in the infographic creating an app requires you to get a wider perspective of the task and then follow the steps necessary to accomplish the task. In this guide, we will cover the following 8 crucial steps towards creating the first app for your business:
So let’s dive right in.
Understanding the Competition in Mobile Apps
Earning a spot on the user’s phone is no cakewalk. The app ecosystem is thriving and no matter which industry you belong to, chances are that you already have a good number of businesses competing with you for downloads. There were a whopping 197 billion app downloads made in 2017 and that number is slated to go up to even more staggering 352.9 billion by 2021.
There are a total of 2.2 million apps in the Apple app store and 3 million in the Google Playstore. That is far too many apps to compete with for sure. However, there’s still always room for a good app, because users download an average of 30 apps in a month, and use about 9 apps every day.
It is no longer surprising that people today spend a large part of their day looking at their smartphones. According to data from Flurry Analytics, 86% of the total time people spend on their phones is spent on apps. Clearly, apps have captivated the imagination of people and they take their apps seriously. On average, a user spends 2 hours and 15 minutes using apps every day.
So as you can see, the number of apps vying for user’s attention is immense and you are up against a pretty stiff competition. But the good news is that since users are spending so much time on apps, they are clearly always on the lookout of good and useful apps. So if you can solve a problem with your app, you are surely going to see success.
Why Does Your Business Need An App?
Having an app is one of the most effective ways of connecting with your customers and forging a relationship. And don’t we know how important that is to a business? Let’s think of it this way – the average US consumer spends over 2 hours a day on their mobile devices, and as we discussed, 86% of this time is spent on apps. So clearly, your customers really love apps and if you manage to succeed at earning a spot on their phone, you are set to enjoy a great deal of their attention, all day, every day. In fact, 70% of smartphone users agree that the mobile presence of a business is very important to its growth and success.
50% of users make their purchase decisions through apps and 77% like to receive offers, coupons and product notifications through apps. So for you to be able to entice such users and turn them into your loyal customers, having an app can prove to be a trump card. After all, 84% of small business owners saw positive results after launching an app and so will you.
Here are a few ways having an app helps your business:
- Staying Connected and Visible To Your Customers 24/7: According to a survey, 46% of Americans check their smartphones first thing in the morning, and 75% of people keep their phones on all day and all night. If your business apps have earned the coveted spot on a user’s phone, it means that you are going to be visible to them all the time. Clearly, this is good for your business.
- Creating a Better Customer Experience: Today’s digitally empowered customers no longer settle for anything less than the best. Customers look at not just your product and price, but also the kind of customer experience you offer. How easy do you make it to find a product, know more about a service, contact customer care, solve problems and give feedback, are all vital aspects of the customer experience, and an app helps you knock them out of the park.
- Building Brand Recognition: Creating a branding that sticks in people’s memory and makes your business stand out in the crowd is a difficult but crucial task. Businesses spend thousands of dollars on advertising and billboards to do this. As opposed to these ways, business apps are one of the most effective ways to establish brand recognition and gain an edge over the competition.
- Cultivating Customer Loyalty: In an age of diminishing brand loyalty, making your customers stay loyal to you takes tremendous effort. An app can help you achieve this by creating a direct channel between you and each of your customers, facilitating personalized services, and improved customer service. If you can provide truly good services and couple it with a fantastic app, you can definitely achieve increased customer loyalty.
- Improving Customer Engagement: The more a customer actively engages with a business, the more they are likely to purchase from it and also stay loyal to it. Apps, with calculated push notifications, personalizes attention and a myriad of other upsides help boost engagement tremendously.
- Creating a direct marketing channel: With an app, you can direct your marketing efforts to the right place at the right time. Whether you are running a special seasonal discount or a flash sale, sending a push notification straight to the user’s mobile phone is the most effective way to communicate it to them.
- Getting Nuanced Customer Insights: What products do your customers like the most? What day of the week gets the maximum activity? Which group of customers is spending more – millennials or Gen Z? All these questions can be easily answered by mobile app analytics.
- Standing Apart from the Competition: Millennials and Gen Z is a highly tech-savvy generation. They use smartphones for the maximum of their daily activities, including business. Having a mobile presence is a clear way to demarcate yourself from the competition and appeal to these tech savvy consumers.
Questions Businesses Ask When Choosing an App Development Company
Okay, so now that you know why your business needs an app and all the wonderful benefits there are to having a business app, it’s time to go looking for an app development company that can transform your vision into a useful, functional and beautiful app.
Hiring an app development company is a task you need to approach with meticulous care and calculation. You need a company that has competent designers and developers who can truly understand your vision and business values, and create a dazzling app out of it.
So here are some of the most important questions businesses ask while choosing an app development company:
1. What Is The Cost?
First things first – you outright want to know how much it would cost to develop your app. Of course this won’t be a simple answer and the company would have to calculate an estimate, but this is something you must find out first.
2. What Is The Timeline Of The Project?
You want to know how long it will take to launch the app and start seeing returns. Timing is of the essence when you want to launch your app to customers.
3. What Type Of Customers Does The App Development Company Work With?
You want a company that preferably has experience working on projects similar to yours or at least in the same vein. A company that has only developed music, fun and gaming apps is probably not ideal for an enterprise app. Although this isn’t a rule written in stone. Some companies are always up for a challenge, so evaluate wisely.
4. What Are Their Most Successful Products And Projects?
Having a good repertoire of successful apps that they have developed and launched can give you a fair idea of their potential and experience.
5. Which Project Management Process Do They Use?
Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, Iterative or one of the many others? What project management methodology does this company use? Knowing that is important as this decides the kind of interaction and control you will have over your project. Do they keep you in loop constantly, do they check with you after every developmental stage? Are they good at receiving and incorporating feedback? All this factors will make a sea of difference.
6. Have They Developed A Similar App Before?
If they have done something like this before, it is indeed easier to entrust your project with them. It means that they are aware of the nuances and fine details involved in a project like this.
7. If Yes, How Successful Was It?
Did the app meet the expectations? Did it generate a positive ROI?
1. What Platforms Do You Use For App Development?
You need to make sure the company has plenty of experience on the platform you want to develop the app on. Android, iOS or cross-platform? This is one question you should have thought about for yourself first, but having done that it is important that your developing company and you are on the same page.
2. Which Technology Do You Use For App Development?
Do they develop native apps or lean more towards HTML5? What are the different tools and software they use?
3. What Language Do You Prefer For App Development?
Anyone developing for iOS must be proficient in Swift and Objective C. Similarly, Android developers must be adept with Java and preferably Kotlin too.
4. Do You Provide Support For The Latest Version?
Phone manufacturers are constantly launching new phones, Apple and Android are always updating their operating systems and overall, technology is always changing and evolving. Apps too need to be updated for the latest technology all the time. Check whether you app development company offers this service.
5. Do You Provide Version Upgradation Support?
Launching an app isn’t the end of an app development company’s responsibility. Make sure your company offers post launch support and maintenance for newer versions.
6. Do You Provide App Design?
Designing an app and developing an app are two very distinct portfolios. Developers cant design. You need a skilled and qualified app designer for that. Having a company that has a full-fledged design team is a definite bonus.
7. Will I Own The Code?
If you wish to own the source code of your app, find out if your app development company will hand over the rights. This is important because owning the code makes sure you can choose to make changes, upgrades or tweaks to it anytime in the future, or hire someone else to make changes and add features. Not owning the code means that every time you need a change made, you need to go back to the original developer.
8. How Will You Estimate The Cost And Schedule For My Project?
There are many ways to estimate the cost. Everything from the platform choice to the app features, admin features and maintenance support matter. Be sure to discuss cost and timeline estimations in detail.
Evaluating an App Idea
Soon after your first estimate, you’ll see that creating an app is no minor expense. That is why it is preeminent that you have complete confidence in the profitability of your app idea. To put things in perspective, an average app loses 77% of its users in the first three days of being downloaded, and up to 90% of users will stop using the app after a month. In such a situation, is your idea capable of keeping its users and generating a positive ROI? An objective evaluation of your app idea is necessary to understand this.
Here are the questions you will need to answer to evaluate your app idea:
1. What Problem Are You Trying To Solve?
To appeal to users, you need to solve a problem they are struggling with. Check that your idea fills a gap that hasn’t been rightly filled in a long time.
2. Who Is The Target Audience?
You need to have a very clear idea of your market. Who are you aiming to sell your app to? Create a user persona of who you think your target audience is. Think of what they do, what age group they fall in, what they are interested in, what are the things they search for and other such questions so that you can get a clear idea of the demographic you are targeting.
3. Who Are Your Competitors?
If it so happens that you are proposing a solution that already exists, you need to rework on your idea. Do a careful analysis of your competitors to find out the kind of solutions they offer and see if what you are creating offers effectively more value than that or solves a problem better than they do.
4. How Are The Competitors Solving This Problem?
Do a thorough research to understand how your competitors are acquiring their marketshare. What are they doing differently? Study the most successful businesses in your category and analyze what they do.
5. What Uniqueness Can You Provide?
All the talk about USPs or unique selling propositions is so popular for a reason. Your app can only be profitable if you do something that is unique and no one else is doing it. Does your app idea have a USP?
6. How Will The Audience Know About My App?
You need to have a plan for your app’s discovery and promotion. The best app in the world is of no use unless people know about it.
7. Estimated Time in Which Your App Will Begin Generating Profit
Time to market is an extremely important consideration. An idea that is tremendously great but will take a year to develop is a massive undertaking and could turn out to be more expensive than profitable.
Securing Your App Idea
Here comes another challenge. During the process of evaluating your app idea and finding an app development company, you want to also make sure that your app idea doesn’t get stolen. There is the possibility that someone may steal your idea and turn it into an app before you. Even if your idea stealer doesn’t make millions off of a stolen idea because he lacks your vision and execution, he could still create duplicate apps that will bite into your profit. On all counts, you need to secure your app idea. Here are a few things you can do to prevent your idea from getting stolen:
- Copyright Your App: Unless your app is complete and ready, it is hard to copyright an idea. However, you could create some physical attributes like a name, an icon or certain graphics that could be copyrighted.
- Get a Non-Disclosure Agreement: Make sure the designers, developers and other people working on your app sign a non-disclosure agreement that will prohibit them from disclosing your app details to anyone.
- Non-Compete Agreement: You could potentially try to find professionals who will sign a non-compete agreement, which means that they will not work with any of your competitors for the duration of your project.
- Apply For a Patent: Patenting your app would be the most secure way of protecting your idea from getting stolen. Even though patents are a long and complex process, a provisional patent could help you.
- Opt for Trademarking: Once again, you could trademark parts of your app idea, like the name, icon and design. Trademarking will not only discourage direct stealers but also help create a document trail that can be furnished as evidence in case you need to ever prove ownership.
The Mobile App Development Process
Having taken care of all the pre-flight checks, it’s now time to let your app project finally take off. So this would be a good place to understand the different steps involved in the mobile app development process.
- Design: First of all, you need an app design – one that is attractive, functional and adaptive so that it works flawlessly across a range of different devices. You need to work with skilled designers for this. Make sure that your design is consistent with your branding.
- Development: Now comes the part where the design is brought to life with high quality code that offers flawless performance, great speed and complete functionality. The quality of the code determines the smoothness and seamless navigation of your app and the littlest of details make a huge difference so be sure to hire the most skilled and experienced developers.
- Module Integration: At this stage, the project is divided into different modules such as authentication, item display, cart and checkout for ease of work and simplification of handling.
- Testing: Having created the code, it’s time to test it and make sure it works just as it should. The app needs to be thoroughly tested for usability, compatibility, interface and operations, to ascertain that there are no bugs or glitches.
- Bug Fixes: As the name suggesting, any detected bugs need to be fixed right away.
- Deployment: Your app is now ready to be submitted to app stores for approval. This is the stage at which your app store optimization and app marketing efforts will kick off.
Adding Your App to the App Stores
Depending on your app platform, you can upload it to the Apple App Store or the Google Playstore. Here are the steps you will need to follow for each platform:
Adding App to Apple App Store (iTunes)
- Create an App ID: Every app needs a unique App ID or application identifier. There exist two types of app IDs – Explicit App ID and Wildcard App ID. An explicit app ID is required when your app needs to use iCloud, Game Center, Apple Push Notifications, In App Purchase and other iOS features. A wildcard app ID can be used for installing multiple applications.
- Create a Distribution Certificate: The next step is to create an iOS provisioning profile for distribution, for which you will first need to create a distribution certificate. For more information, you can checkout Apple’s guide on Code Signing Your Apps.
- Create a Distribution Provisioning Profile: Having created your distribution certificate, it’s time to create an iOS provisioning profile. Also remember that you need a provisioning profile that is exclusively for App Store distribution. If you initially created a wildcard App ID, you can distribute multiple applications with just one provisioning certificate.
- Check Code Signing and Build Settings: Now it’s time to configure your build settings in Xcode. From the list of targets in Xcode, select Project Navigator. Now open Build Settings tab at the top and update settings in the Signing section. Now set the Code Signing to Automatic.
- Archive Your App: You need to upload your app’s build through Xcode. You can do this by selecting ‘Generic iOS Device’ in Xcode as the deployment target. Then from the top menu, choose ‘Product’ and click on ‘Archive’.
- Create an App On iTunes Connect: Having taken care of all the technical aspects, it’s now time to take care of iTunes which is the commercial part of App Store that handles transactions. So go to iTunes Connect and choose ‘Add a New App’. Complete the next few steps that are quite self explanatory.
Adding App to Google Playstore
- Register Yourself and Create an Account: You need to first of all have an account with Google, so begin by registering yourself as a publisher with a small fee. Accept the terms and conditions and verify using the email sent.
- Delve into Developer’s Console: Having verified your account, you need to open the Google Play Developer Console. This makes it easy to manage all stages of publishing your app.
- Complete the Information Formalities: Enter all the key details asked for in your account and just follow the further instructions.
- Link Your Merchant Account: It’s now time to link your Google Payment Merchant account to your profile. This will be used for all transactions including app purchases, subscriptions, and even in app purchases.
- Proceed With the Uploading Of the App: Go to the All Applications tab and click on ‘Add New Application’. Select the default language from the given options, enter your app’s title, select ‘upload APK’ and you will be able to upload your .apk file.
- Alpha and Beta Testing Your App: Before you launch the app, make sure you alpha and beta test the app. You can release a beta version of the app to your community and look for their feedback and review, based on which, you can make key last minute changes.
- Proceed With the Store Listing Process: This is a vital step that will let you catch a glimpse of what your app will look like once launched. Enter your app description, link to your promo video and screenshots and provide your contact details and save.
- Add Price and Distribution Details: Now’s the time to enter app pricing details, or mention that it’s free. Select the countries you wish to distribute the app in.
- Device Filtering Option: At this stage, you can choose to mark the specific devices you wish to distribute the app on, based on compatibility.
- Publish the App: You’re all set now. Click on the ‘publish this app’ button and you are good to go.
App Store Optimization
Here comes an important you shouldn’t ever overlook. 63% apps are discovered through app store searches. You want to optimize your app store listing in such a way that its discoverability increases. It should not only show up promptly in relevant searches but should also look attractive enough to get users to download it.
Here are the key steps that will help you optimize your app store listing for the maximum downloads:
- Understand Your Customers and Your Competition: Study the successful apps in your category and see how they do what they do. See the language they use in their description and the imagery they use. Check out the reviews on the competing apps to see what the users like and what they find lacking.
- Choose the Right App Name: You need to choose a name that is attractive and also try to use a keyword in the title as apps with keywords in their title rank 10.3% higher than apps without it.
- Optimize Your Keywords: Title has a limited number of characters and even the description is not much of a playing ground. That is why it is crucial to choose the most powerful keywords that pack more punch in fewer words.
- Create a Compelling Description: The description is the only place to directly tell your users what’s great about your app. Also, focus your efforts on the first three lines as these are the ones that show above the fold.
- Stand Out With a Unique Icon: An icon forms the first impression of your app. Be sure to use an icon that is clear, attractive and stands out in the crowd.
- Include Strategic Screenshots and Videos: Screenshots and video should not only capture the beautiful pages of your app but also give a hint of the wonderful features of your app.
- Localize Your App Listing: When you are aiming at a wide, possibly global audience, be sure to appeal to each segment of audience in a way they find more endearing. Use multiple languages to attract non-English speaking audience.
- Increase Traffic with Outside Promotion: There are a number of ways to get backlinks to your app that you absolutely must exploit. Use strategies like app indexing that have proved immensely effective.
- Update Regularly: Fresh produce sells better. Quite a simple rule isn’t it? You should release regular updates to make sure your app remains fresh and relevant. This also ensures that app stores display it in search results higher up.
- Encourage Ratings and Feedback: Ratings and feedback help in many ways. They create social proof that encourages other users to download the app. However, users need to be nudged into giving ratings and feedback. Incentivize users, solicit feedback and interact by responding to reviews.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about creating, launching and optimizing your first business app.
Now we know that every project is unique and no one rule applies to all. What do you think you want to do first? Are you inclined towards an iOS app or an Android app as your first project?
Or do you think creating for both is important, despite the cost?
Do you think a free app with ad revenue is better for your business, or a paid app with premium content?
These are the kind of questions you need to think long and hard about before coming to a conclusion. If you need expert help though, we are here for you. Reach out to us and let’s talk about what would be the best app strategy for your precious idea.
Infographic originally published at: Beyond An Idea: Creating The First Mobile App For Your Business