The digital world changes fast. What’s hot and what’s not, what’s going to last and what’s burned out too fast – it’s hard to keep up with the trends. Today, we’ll touch on the basics of apps and app development, and the key things that any digital business needs to know!
What is an app?
The word “app” is a common abbreviation for “application”, and refers to a program or piece of software which has been designed for a specific purpose. In theory, an application is any piece of software that helps a user to complete a task, but “app” as a term is usually used to describe a program downloaded to a smartphone or tablet. “Web apps” are applications that require the internet or a browser to run, where “native apps” are the applications that are downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet and which work from within their operating system.
Apps are incredibly flexible, and can be used for a huge variety of purposes. There are over a million apps on Google Play, and at least another million on the Apple App Store. Apps can be games, catalogues, magazines, messaging platforms, live-action translations, maps, social networks, productivity tools, camera improvements – the possibilities are extensive.
The flexibility of apps is what makes them so appealing for business owners. They can be interactive PR tools, or branded pieces of content marketing, or can carry out a function specific to your business model. Whatever you want your app to be, it can be achieved. There’s a reason everyone knows that “there’s an app for that”!
That’s why apps can be an excellent way for a company to connect with a tech-savvy market. As well as appealing to more digitally-minded consumers and complementing more traditional marketing techniques, brands often use apps to provide their users with an experience, rather than simply pushing a product or service.
How popular are apps?
Part of the draw for businesses is that having an app allows you to reach billions of users around the world. To put it another way, apps have a guaranteed audience. 50 million smartphone apps are downloaded from online stores every day, and apps are here to stay – in October 2014, Apple recorded its 85 billionth download in the app store since June 2008, proving that they have the longevity factor, too.
It’s easy to throw around words like “million” and “billion”, so here’s some perspective on those numbers. 1 million seconds is 11.57 days. But 1 billion seconds is 31.68 years. If you downloaded one app every second, it would take nearly 2,694 years for you to catch up to Apple’s current record! That means that an app is a piece of content marketing that’s easy to distribute and can give your brand incredible reach.
If it’s well-built and becomes popular, your app even has the chance of being promoted in app marketplaces. Google Play and the Apple App Store curate their collections, promoting “apps of the week” and gathering collections of editors’ choices that advertise useful, quirky and engaging apps to the millions of users who log onto the app stores daily.
How much do people use apps?
Even more persuasive is the fact that people spent far more time in apps that they do on websites. Apps can eliminate users’ need to download information in-browser, or check it in multiple places, like your website or Social Media accounts. An app can be a very useful extension of your services that users can access wherever they are.
The evolution of technology means that apps help businesses keep up with their mobile customers. Apps provide access to a vast audience who are willing to engage with new technologies. Smartphones and tablets are the top of the tech market, and users tend to be tech-literate and up-to-date with the latest trends. If they’re your target demographic, an app could be an ideal piece of content marketing for you.
Will I definitely benefit from having an app?
Well, we can’t tell you that without knowing you who are, or who your target market is! Many organisations assume that because a technology is popular, it will automatically work for them, but that isn’t always the case. That’s why, at Creo, we build a “Discover” stage into every one of our projects. We’ll scope out your business, your target audience and whether an app is a cost-effective solution for you. If it sounds like a great idea but would actually work better as a website or a different piece of content marketing, we will always offer you the benefit of our experience.
While it’s true that the app industry is predicted to generate $76 billion in worldwide revenue by 2017, don’t assume it’s a field you absolutely have to get yourself into! Making money from apps is difficult, especially as the downloads of free apps hugely outstrip paid apps. Paid apps currently account for just 8% of downloads worldwide.
In light of this, it’s worth bearing in mind that developing an app is a lot more expensive than building a website, partly because they need to be built for a number of different operating systems. In other words, if you want your app to work on both iPhones and Android phones, you’ll need to build two different versions of the same app, whereas developments in responsive web design mean that one website will work on all devices and screen sizes.