Why & How to Create a Mobile App for Small Business
Mobile phones are truly a huge part of our lives:
For you as a business owner, it means that having a mobile app allows you to potentially become a part of 5.27 billion unique mobile users’ lives. It implies new sales channels and marketing tools, strengthening your brand loyalty, and expanding your clientele in general.
In this article, we’ll talk about how you might benefit from integrating a mobile app into your business’s workflow in detail. Additionally, we are going to cover extra two options (white-label apps and app builders) for how you can get the app and make an FAQ to make certain aspects clear.
Finally, we’ll give you some technological tips based on our expertise as a mobile & web development company. So, if you find any of these relevant — welcome!
8️⃣ Benefits of Building a Mobile App for your Small Business
Let’s take a look at all the benefits you might get from implementing a mobile app into your workflow.
# 1: Sales Boost 💲
One of the most beneficial reasons why you should build a mobile app is sales increase. There are multiple cases when developing a mobile app allowed a significant sales boost:
- Domino’s Pizza’s online sales in the UK increased by 28% after the mobile app was released. Currently, it’s responsible for as much as more than half of online orders.
- Taco Bell’s app also boosted sales of the company. Moreover, it was reported that orders made through the mobile app were usually 20% more profitable than the in-person ones.
- Zara’s app increased sales of the company by an unbelievable 60%.
Surely, to reach such an increase, you shouldn’t just deploy an app and hope for the best — approach to building it matters a lot. For example, you definitely should reach out to existing customers and ask them what app features would make being your client more convenient.
This is something a British supermarket chain ASDA did, which resulted in their app generating 90% of all mobile sales with more than 2M downloads.
# 2: Digital Presence Increase 📈
One of the biggest problems of small businesses is the tough competition from global brands. Most people know companies like Starbucks and H&M. Yet, local coffee houses or small designer brands are usually well-known only in their neighborhood or within narrow groups of people.
Having a mobile app can provide you with a more visible position at different levels apart from representing your brand on the internet and giving you an option to promote on app stores:
- You can have a memorable logo or a bright branded design. With a constant presence on users’ screens, the app remains in their sight and works as a reminder that you, simply put, exist. By applying retargeting and engagement tools correctly, it can significantly increase your sales.
- Plus, word-of-mouth works here in a special way as well. For example, while your client scrolls through their phone, their friend can accidentally look at the app’s icon. Next time they see you somewhere, they might get curious and visit you to at least try your services.
- Users can share that they’ve used your services or products and mention you on their Insta Stories, for example. You can offer them small bonuses like discounts for sharing their experience to encourage them.
# 3: Huge Number of Potential Users & Market Choice 😃
Mobile apps are one of the greatest ways of reaching a wider audience. As we already mentioned, there are 5.27B unique mobile users. And technically, there’s not much to talk about since it’s self-explanatory. Yet, we’d like to talk about some aspects that might not be as obvious.
Firstly, we completely understand that not all small businesses want or need to grow that much. If you own a small bakery, for instance, and want it to remain that way, 5.27B mobile users aren’t likely to be your target audience.
Yet, at the same time, it can help you build more stable relations with your current customers. Loyalty programs, special offers, convenient ordering and delivery system — this all will keep them more engaged & motivated to use your services and buy your goods.
However, if your business has something to do with providing services digitally, you can reach any part of the world you want, which implies:
- access to all markets. More importantly, to those where users tend to pay more.
- significant potential customers number increase.
- more agility in terms of choosing a niche. For example, you can reach any market over the internet, if the one in your country is not developed or already overcrowded.
# 4: Retargeting Opportunities 🎯
Mobile apps are not only about attracting new consumers but retargeting them as well. One of the best tools for it is push notifications. It can help with retargeting in multiple ways:
- if a user has started an online order but left it unfinished, the app can remind them to complete it with a friendly unobtrusive notification;
- every time a user passes near (within, for example, 100-300 meters) your offline store (if you have one), you can send them an invitation to visit or a hot offers list;
- if a user was interested in specific goods, you may notify them about discounts and special offers regarding these goods later.
So, instead of generic offers, your customers can get relevant and personalized ones. This simple but effective solution will allow you to keep customers more engaged with your app and increase the number of abandoned but eventually completed orders from 8% to no less than 26% (according to Digital Information World).
# 5: Personalization 📲
Mobile apps can help you make your customers feel special and treated personally. They can memorize settings, save wish lists, rewards, and loyalty programs progress, recommend service or content based on one’s interest, etc. Surely, these are available over other digital products, yet, nothing is as effective as being present at users’ phone screens.
Plus, with an app, it’s really easy to offer social media accounts integration. It can help you get even more information on your customers so that marketing would be even more targeted.
For a higher personalization level, we’d recommend asking for users’ names so that it’s not “you” but “Hello, [Name]!”. You can also offer personalized account avatars.
# 6: Better Customer Experience 👍
While businesses view mobile apps as marketing tools, a part of overall branding strategy, communication channels with clients, a source of additional income, and much more, the app’s core value for your customers lies in the improved customer experience and convenience.
Better customer experience is enabled with help of features like:
- Goods and services categorization.
- Filtering system for customers to easily find what they want.
- Map of physical stores (if you have such). You can also make a guide on how to get to you. It can include a list of public transport that goes to your neighborhood, navigator integration, etc.
- In-store experience improvements like QR-codes to get detailed info on the product or instant checkout by paying online and not having to stay in a queue.
# 7: Brand Loyalty 🎁
Mobile apps are in fact a great tool for improving brand loyalty. In other words, turning customers that visit you rarely into regulars. There are quite a lot of brand loyalty features (they can also be called gamification features):
- Points system. Users receive points for purchases or/and actions that can be later exchanged for gifts, goods, discounts, or other benefits.
- Tiers system. Customers collect points that allow them to level up and get permanent bonuses that become more profitable with every next level.
- Coupons. Hot time-limited offers that everybody likes. All these “buy one, get one free”, “order a cappuccino and get a free donut”, and so on really encourage people to be your customer more often and become your regular.
If you’d like to have a more detailed overview of each brand loyalty strategy and learn about some more, we have an article dedicated to building a loyalty app where we talk about all loyalty features:
# 8: KYC Concept & Data Analysis 📊
Another reason to make an app for your business is customer data. Your app will gather different stats that can be used later to make data-driven business decisions and marketing to improve UX and increase your revenue.
It can be:
- What goods and services are the most popular among your consumers.
- When users are most active.
- What their typical behavioral patterns in your app are.
💼 Custom Development vs White-Label Apps vs App Builders
When building a mobile app, you can opt for several options. So, in this article, we’ll review 3 options for you to choose from — custom mobile app development, buying an app from a white-label provider, and using app builders.
Custom development implies building an app from scratch with every single feature being designed specifically for your use case. This way, you get 100% personalization and convenience since all parts of development like the UX/UI design are up to you.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this option:
- Fully customized functionality
- An opportunity to add any 3rd-party integration
- Full control over security features and regulations to comply with
- An opportunity to integrate/synchronize it with a currently used product
- Takes more time to develop (compared to other options)
- The priciest option
- Need to maintain and support the app after release
So, if any of the benefits are crucial for you, we’d recommend building a custom app. Custom development might also be the most suitable option if you want to have full control over the app and modify it any time and as you want. Or if you need a custom app’s structure for your specific workflow.
Plus, custom apps are more beneficial in the long term since you don’t have to pay for the features you don’t use — normally, you pay for a set of features regardless of whether you’ll use them.
If you use a white-label app, it means that a company built a template of an app and sold it to you. You can customize the UI design to a certain extent (icons, pictures, colors, fonts) and, rarely, slightly modify the functionality.
Moreover, there are different types of white-label apps — single- and multi-tenant. Single-tenancy implies having an isolated data storage on the server that a provider offers, more customization possibilities, and more freedom of choice when it comes to updating the app since they’re not bound to any other app on the server.
On the other hand, multi-tenancy provides you with less customization, and your app is hosted on the shared server, which means that you can’t decide when to update or modify the app since the code isn’t isolated.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a white-label app:
- Cheaper than custom development
- Relatively fast deployment
- Technical aspects and maintenance are covered by the provider
- Highly limited functionality & UI customization options
- Shared database (if you choose multi-tenancy)
White-label apps might be a great option if you need to have an app within 1-2 weeks, don’t need functionality customization, or don’t have enough budget to get a custom app but still want a more or less functional app. Plus, you might not be sure whether a mobile app is something you definitely want, so, you can use a white-label product as an MVP to test out the market and switch to a custom app later.
App builders are platforms where you make an app with your hands without having to code. The functionality includes UI design customization like colors and fonts, several layout options (not customizable), features.
Let’s review the pros and cons:
- Easy to use & cheap
- The fastest deployment out of 3 options
- No coding skills are necessary
- Poor performance
- Limited functionality and design choice
- Outdated templates (in most cases)
- The low level of security
So, this option is the least reliable yet the easiest one. It might be suitable for you if you just want to test the idea but don’t have enough budget to build a well-functioning MVP, for example.
❓ FAQ on Custom App Development
In this section, we’ll answer some questions on custom mobile app development — it’ll definitely help you understand the process even better.
Is it Easier to Build an App if I Already Have a Website?
To begin with, having a website doesn’t make the coding process easier since the web and mobile products don’t usually share codebases. Yet, it surely is easier to build an app in case you have a well-functioning website.
One of the time-saving aspects is that you already have a design and brand. Surely, if you want to add some new things, it’s not a big deal. But generally, the design of all your products should be mutually consistent.
Yet, another important thing is that not all features from your website could be enabled in the app or vice versa — at least, not with the same approach. For instance, web products use desktop notifications, while push notifications are an option for native apps. In-app purchases also differ — it can be enabled with the help of 3rd-party providers like Solarisbank or Stripe, but the codebase will still be different.
Your development team will most likely be competent in this field, yet, we still recommend conducting your own research to be more aware of the differences and alternatives.
How to Make the Development Time- & Cost-Effective?
Let’s take a look at how you can speed up the development process as well as reduce costs without damaging your app’s quality.
First of all, you should plan everything as early and precisely as possible. The thing is that with the development, it’s pretty hard to take steps back and apply changes — it might imply modifying a big part of a code.
Sure thing, if you’d like to change something later on during the development, it won’t be a problem and the developers would happily fulfill your request. Yet, by minimizing the risk of changing your mind, you significantly decrease both time and costs of mobile app development.
And another recommendation would be not to overload the app with features and integrations right at the beginning. For starters, basic functionality with user-friendly design will most likely be sufficient.
This way, you decrease the time and costs needed for the development as well as give your customers time to get used to the app. Plus, it’s not a problem to modify the app in the future.
For this purpose, you might even build a sustainable MVP with only basic functionality. We in fact have an article dedicated to building an MVP if you’d like to get some insights on this topic:
Outsourcing or In-House Development Team: How to Choose?
To put it briefly, there are 2 main options for hiring developers: in-house and outsourcing. In-house implies hiring developers and making them a part of your employees, while outsourcing is about working with 3rd-party providers.
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both options. So, as for outsourcing, you might get the following benefits and face these downsides:
- No recruitment, training, and long interviewing expenses
- Easy to change or expand the team in case you’re not satisfied with someone. It’s much easier to stop working with or change an outsource team than do the same with an in-house worker
- Access to an open talent pool
- No project management skills are required since 3rd-party providers most likely already have a sustainable workflow that allows delivering products fastly with no quality damage
- Faster deployment in general
- Cultural differences that may cause misunderstandings
- Lack of in-person control
- Less project dedication, compared to in-house development
Yet, with a reliable outsourced development team, there are practically no risks, meaning that by finding the right partner you can avoid them.
In-house development can be both beneficial and risky as well:
- No cultural or language barriers
- High project focus and engagement
- Fast feedback and more supervising options
- Strong HR skills and a lot of resources for hiring are required
- Lack of expertise is some of the development spheres since hiring often includes looking for an employee with a certain set of skills. Thus, they are rarely experts in other ones
- Higher expenses. Plus, even if you’re not dealing with the development, you’ll still have to pay salaries to your developers
As a summary, we’d like to list some use cases when one of these options might be more suitable for you. So, if you’re targeted at comparatively fast app deployment, ready for cross-cultural communication, don’t want to allocate resources for hiring and managing the development, or to be bound to a certain developer, you should consider outsourcing.
We actually have an article dedicated to outsourcing your app development if you’d like to learn more about it:
Hiring an in-house team may be a better option if you prefer to have wider control and management possibilities over the development process. This may also work better if you’re building a complex product that will need constant post-release support.
Yet, be ready that this option requires a lot of financial resources and time on building the team, as well as understanding of IT skills needed to create the app you want.
How to Choose the Development Team?
And last but not least, we’ll give you tips on how you can find the right Tech Partner for your project in case you decide to work with a 3rd-party provider.
Here they are:
- If you can find someone who already worked with the development team you want to contact, consider asking them to give you some feedback on how their partnership went.
- It’s a good idea to check their specialization. For instance, if you think both teams are professionally equal, you might choose the one that has more experience in your industry.
- Look for a team with transparent pricing, billing, and invoicing processes.
- Try to find a team that addresses and communicates all issues - it’s a key to a successful partnership.
- Choose a team that suggests alternatives rather than blindly follows your instructions.
🤖 Tech Tips
The first aspect we’d like to cover is how to choose between building an iOS or Android app. There are two crucial moments to pay attention to:
- Android is used by a higher number of people. As Statista’s research states, 73% of mobile users all over the world use an Android device, while iOS has 26% of users on its side.
- Yet, with significantly fewer users, people on the iOS market generate $9B more] revenue to app owners, compared to Android users.
So, if your priority is increasing your digital presence, you can consider building an Android app. But if you want to have an audience that pays more, an iOS app might be more suitable.
Luckily, you don’t have to limit yourself by building an app for only 1 operating system — there’s a way you can build one for both.
So as not to put yourself in a position where you have to choose between two operating systems since both of them provide you with the essential perks of a mobile app, you can build it using React Native — a cross-platform development framework.
Cross-platform here implies that you can use 70-80% of the codebase for both Android and iOS development. Our team has a lot of experience with React Native. You can take a look at Civocracy and Pocket Promoter case studies. For these projects, we’ve built digital products with the help of React Native.
And last but not least, here’s a list of useful 3rd-Party integrations:
- Push-Notifications: iZooto, Sendpulse.
- Emailing: SendGrid, Gmail API.
- Payments: Braintree, Stripe, Solarisbank.
- Calendar: Google Calendar, Nylas, Zoho.
- Communicational Tools: WhatsApp API, Sendbird.
💰 What Affects Mobile App Development Costs?
So as to plan the budget for the app development in advance, you should take these cost components into account:
- Number & complexity of features.
- 3rd-party integrations (if you want to have such).
- The design.
- An hourly rate/salary of the software developers.
To wrap it up, we’d like to say that mobile apps can significantly boost your business and growth with the right approach. But what is the right approach after all?
Even though it’ll be individual for each separate use case, we can give you some tips:
- Try not to deploy all features at once. Let your customers get accustomed to the new product of yours and then add new features to improve the user experience.
- Ask for feedback and reviews before launching an app from your most loyal customers.
- Actually listen to customers’ feedback. At the end of the day, they’re likely to be the most active users.
- Use loyalty features.
- Provide a high personalization level.
If you need any help with the development or have some questions left, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be more than happy to help you!