Think about Domino's app, which exists solely to connect hungry customers with hot pizzas.
Countless businesses and entrepreneurs assume that building an app is a great idea. There is good reason for that: Research by Dot Com Infoway shows that mobile apps are expected to generate $77 billion in revenue for businesses this year.
However, not all that wealth is being spread around: Forrester Research reveals that only a fraction of the 2.8 million available apps out there are ever actually used. What most businesses and entrepreneurs fail to realize is that just because you build an app -- even if there's a "cool idea" behind it -- doesn't mean people want it.
That's not to say that you should never build an app; it's just that your app has to add real value to users and be consistent with the value that the rest of your business provides.
A slice of the app pie
If you want an example of a company that has built such an app, grab your phone and order a pizza from Domino's. For nearly a decade, the company's stock has outperformed that of tech giants like Apple and Amazon. Now, the team has built an app that allows you to order a pizza at the click of a button; and if that's too much effort, there's even a voice-activated command to make the process easier. Once you've placed your order, you can use the Domino's app to track your pie all the way to your front door.
It's an app completely designed around making the customer experience as frictionless as possible, and its functionality is entirely aligned with the company's core business function, which is connecting hungry customers with hot pizzas. Judging by the number of downloads the app has received, customers are eating it up.
A company's brand is its most valuable asset. Customers learn to rely on and seek out the brands that have earned their trust. When you build and release an app, it becomes an extension of your brand.
Augmenting the customer experience
What Domino's understands is that a brand must be consistent across all platforms -- mobile included. And Domino's isn't the only company that knows this.
Another global brand, L'Oreal, is focusing less on facilitating the sale of products and more on fulfilling its mission of helping customers feel beautiful. With its Makeup Genius app, L'Oreal uses face-mapping technology to let users try out different looks and makeup styles, to determine what's best for them. Users don't need to scan any product codes or agree to purchase anything from the app itself.
L'Oreal's team understands that by simply adding value, the app instills trust in potential customers and makes them more likely to choose L'Oreal next time they purchase a beauty product.
Answering the call
The siren call of having a mobile presence is strong. Unfortunately, far too many businesses rush into building some kind of app -- any kind will do -- with little thought about whether it's the right move. This leads to low adoption rates or terrible reviews, which can lead in turn to regret and frustration for business owners.
Regardless of the industry you're in or the type of business you operate, it's critical to consider what specifically you hope to accomplish by releasing a mobile app. Once you establish your goals, you can begin to put together a business plan -- which should include strategies for building, launching and marketing the app.
If your business offers an app or if you're in the process of building one, here are three steps you can take to ensure that your offering adds value and aligns with your business objectives.
1. Link up with your values. Define the core values you offer as a company, then make sure your app is in line with them. A mobile app doesn't have to be a mobile catalog or a smaller version of the corporate website. In fact, mobile is best when it offers something you can't get on another platform -- as long as that offering is an extension of your brand rather than a random set of bells and whistles.
Starbucks is a prime example of a company that has built an app that is entirely "on brand" and adds value to its customers. From its fonts and colors to its layout and seamless user experience, the app feels like a Starbucks in your pocket rather than a separate entity. It makes ordering and paying for a beverage easy, and it's paying dividends for the coffee giant.
No one should be implementing random features just for the sake of novelty. But by focusing in on your core offerings, you can ensure that people will get some new value from your app that still aligns with your brand.
2. Exploit the tools in front of you. Look toward catering to an underserved segment of your audience with quality visuals and UX to amplify the experience. The limitations of the mobile experience aren't limitations at all if you use them to your advantage: For example, smaller screens necessitate less complicated features.
Tinder, the popular dating app, relied on the simplicity of its mobile interface to completely revolutionize dating (for better or for worse), while Bumble flipped the script by incorporating familiar tools in a female-focused context.
Tap into the features and functionality that mobile delivers. Phones offer cameras, dedicated processing power, geolocation, gesture controls and more. Use those features to help push your core value out into the world.
3. Use mobile to supplement your brand's value. In many cases, if your customers want to buy something from you, they can do it via your website or brick-and-mortar store. Rather than attempting to drive sales with a mobile app, consider using that app to augment your product and provide an ecosystem for its adoption.
Audi has made it a point to showcase its commitment to cutting-edge technology in order to shape the way the public views its brand and products. The Audi Connect app lets users lock their cars, find their cars, set timers and more -- all from their mobile devices.
Few people would think of purchasing a vehicle with the swipe of a finger. Instead, the app reinforces the company's commitment to technology and adds to the brand's overall clout. So, design your app around addressing a specific customer pain point that the speed and ease of mobile can help alleviate.
Your app can add value to current and future customers in a multitude of ways. If you prioritize users over the app itself and align its functionality with your core business, you may just rise above the multitudes and hit that "top downloads" nirvana you've always dreamed of.