Should Your Business Get a Smartphone App?

I originally wrote this post for the fabulous Anastasia Valentine a while ago. I gave it a little bit of an update! I love me some App talk! 

should entrepreneurs have a smartphone app

With the immense growth of the general population’s acceptance of smartphones, and a drastic increase of usage of smartphone apps even beyond internet and web browsing in the past 12 months, as an entrepreneur one would think having a smartphone app is a must.

The increasing popularity of iOS devices and Android devices necessitates action on the part of businesses to see how and if stepping into this new ecosystem is beneficial to the profitability and scalability of the business.

Every week there are articles published on smartphones, apps, and statistics of usage. From an outsider perspective, especially from the entrepreneur perspective it may feel like you have to jump right in and get a piece of the pie.

Before you do, consider the points below.

Why does your business want an app?

I’m going to assume that those reading this are not entrepreneurs or businesses that will be build solely on developing smartphone apps. That sort of business merits a completely different blog post. This post is for those that would like to supplement their existing business with an app offering.

As of this writing, there are currently over 650,000 apps in the iTunes app store and over 500,000 in the Android Marketplace. If you are planning on simply creating an app for your business and expecting easy discoverability and success you have another thing coming. Apps like anything else in your business require focused and clear development based on why: why does your business need or want an app?

  • Do you want to generate passive income?
  • Will this app be another way to market your existing business?
  • Will this app offer a service that specifically addresses a pain point to your customers?
  • Do you plan on selling your products directly from your app?
  • Will the app offer supplementary or complementary material to your already existing content or programs?

The more you refine the questions regarding the why behind your app development, the clearer your path to success within the app smartphone-sphere.

Embrace The Boundaries

After getting clear as to why you want an app for your business, your first step in the process of developing your app is to find out if what you are choosing to do with your app is compatible with the terms of service of the various app stores.

What will be your users main interaction with your app?

  • Is it content consumption? Where is the content coming from?
  • Is it purchasing products?
  • Is it managing accounts or systems?
  • Is it simple static information ie: a business card app?

Here are the App Store Review Guidelines for iOS apps and Android Application Fundamentals so that you can search them to see if you are violating any existing TOS based on your idea BEFORE you spend precious time and resources in development.

This is something that you can do alone or you can consult with a developer. In this way you can iterate your idea according to the existing boundaries.

Consider Algorithms and Discoverability

Every app store has their own algorithm for showcasing and featuring apps. In the beginning it seemed that all algorithms were based purely on the amount of downloads for each app, but as time has gone on there have been some mysterious changes to what truly drives an app to be featured.


  • iTunes App Store algorithm changes- If you want to be featured within the app store, it seems that in addition to download numbers and positive ratings, usage had become pretty important. The more app owners interact with the apps the more the apps will rise up the ranks. This means that apps that people use a lot, such as the Facebook app, will be featured more than those that are beautifully designed but only used occasionally, such as a Resume app or a Christmas Shopping List app that you may only use once in a while.

  • Android marketplace algorithm- There really isn’t much consensus regarding the Android Marketplace and being featured. These are factors that have been mentioned in terms of being seen: positive ratings, having a major publisher, being a new app, installation and usage. Android also has a team of editors and category managers that are always on the lookout for apps with some serious potential. What that potential could be...not quite sure.

You can see from the above that there is a lot of mystery to being featured as well as inconsistencies. Although a spotlight in the app stores would absolutely drive downloads and discoverability, to count on that as your sole means of discovery or promotion would be less than optimal.

For some businesses pushing for a feature in the app store may be counterproductive, especially, if the app’s purpose isn’t about making money off the app. If you have a highly targeted audience and you know your consumer/client inside and out, the approach to market your app aligns with your existing marketing strategy, so your level of success goes back to the very first question I asked at the beginning of the post: to app or not to app for your business.

If you spent the time figuring out what best works for you, your business as well as serving your customers the best, algorithms in the app stores will be important, but they won’t impede your level of success.

Free or Paid

Statistics at this moment show that iOS device users downloaded about 83 apps each in 2011 and are paying higher prices. At the same time Flurry has found that Freemium beats Premium in revenue earned, and consumers spend an average of $14 per transaction in iOS and Android fremium games.

Although this data is important to keep in mind, you as an entrepreneur must look again at the why behind your app. If you are creating an app that will solve an important pain point for your customer in an elegant and beautifully designed manner, then premium pricing will be the best choice.

If your app is all about enhancing your reach and strengthening your brand then perhaps offering a free app with the potential for paid upgrades will serve your business best. This is also a great opportunity for feedback and perhaps renewed ideas of refining your app offering.

A Bright Future For Apps and Your Business

As entrepreneurs being involved in some way in the smartphone-sphere is very important. This level of engagement with your customers and potential customers will only be more crucial in the future.

If you are not ready to step into developing and app for your business at the very least choose to stay informed regarding the goings on in that marketplace. One of the best places to start is to subscribe to the Flurry Blog, they do a great job at offering data, and providing insight regarding the mobile population.

Have you already started developing a smartphone app?

Do you have an app for your business? In what ways has it empowered your business?

Are there any app questions or concerns that you’d like to address?

Please share in the comments! Would love to hear from you!

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