Why your startup needs (or doesn't need) a mobile app - and which platforms to make one for

Posted by Knowlton Thomas

Does your startup need a mobile app?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It depends on what your product or service is, what your budget is, and what your audience is.

Product or service

This is an obvious way to rule out certain businesses. Dairyland doesn't really need a mobile app - if I want chocolate milk, I'll go to the store and buy some. But a magazine, for example, better have one: their readers, unless the publication is Amish Lifestyle, want to access your news on the fly. A retailer may not have any urgent need to develop an app, as shopping on a mobile device is a clumsy experience indeed, but certainly your super-unique group-buying startup must give instant access to consumers via smartphone, especially one of those new-fangled location-based ones.

It's moslty cut-and-dry, but there's always room for innovation. Use a mobile app to launch a campaign, or just test the waters to see how many of your consumers bite. This is one way to better understand your audience - which brings us to the next point.

Audience

If you provide a senior-friendly taxi service, for example, don't bother making a mobile app. A taxi service is a great business to utilize the mobile application realm, but not one that targets Granny Agatha who will mumble, "What's a smartphone?!" before thwacking you with her cane.

That doesn't mean mobile apps only appeal to geeks, of course, but your audience needs to meet certain critera: do a large number of them have or want mobile devices? Are they commuters or travellers or do they otherwise spend time away from the home computer and office? Does your product or service have extra perks being mobile, or does mobile improve its quality or effectiveness in some way that the consumer will recognize?

Budget

Money. Not the best thing to talk about so close to Christmas, I know. But if you bust your financial balls so your brand new mobile app can burst onto the scene, only to bust itself and become the bane which bankrupts your brand... that's bad. Know how much you can afford - if you truly need one at all - and don't go over budget.

Shop around and do your research; don't rush into anything. Launching a crappy app is a difficult wound to heal, especially if it damaged the wallet too. Remember: Unless you sneak in advertising or your app somehow commands high-downloads at a premium price, you won't tangibly realize a return on the app. It's about creating a positve user experience, boosting user engagement, and promoting - direct profits are never a chief goal. 

Which platforms to use?

iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Symbian, Bada, Windows mobile... and an increasingly wide of tablets to boot. It's certainly not cheap to make your app available on every platform - but it certainly isn't necessary either. While there is some overlap, key distinctions between demographics of these platforms do exist, so do your research.

For example, Android phones are male-dominated, while iPod Touch consumers are mostly teenagers, and iPhone users are more willing to pay for apps than most. BlackBerry uses tend to be more business-savvy professionals. Remember, however, one tricky point: Launching app for one or two platforms but no others may offend some or many of your consumers, especially if you targeted the wrong ones.

Company:
BlackBerry
Website:
http://www.blackberry.com
Location:
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry solution in 1999. Since then, BlackBerry products and services have continued to change the way millions of people around the world stay connected. With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry. Not only did we introduce a... more

Company:
Google
Website:
http://www.google.com
Location:
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As a first step to fulfilling that mission, Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed a new approach to online search that took root in a Stanford University dorm room and quickly spread to information seekers around the globe. Google is now widely recognized as the world's largest search engine --... more


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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys playing tennis, hiking, and exploring weird side streets. more




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