Making your website available as an app

Making your website available as an app

In the face of growing mobility, many businesses understandably wish to make their online presence available as a mobile app.

But users expect a lot more from a mobile app than a pure copy of the company’s website.

Which companies does an app suit?

Apps aren’t just useful to attract new customers, but also prove a high standard of customer orientation as an extra function for existing customers.

However, the ratio between effort, cost and benefit must be kept. Just like it wouldn’t pay out for the kebap shop around the corner to book a television ad, it wouldn’t be wise to have their own app. Within these dimensions, a mobile website would more likely be the medium of choice.

For companies active countrywide, for online shops, chain stores or large companies with a big customer base, an app is definitely an attractive way of marketing.

Why an app and not a mobile website?

Why not both? A mobile website should of course be part of the marketing repertoire for large businesses! An app is set apart from a mobile website in quite a few factors:

The word „app“ is short for „application“ - it is meant to be used. This is why an app should be designed for interaction with the user. While a mobile website is a passive channel, a native app offers many more possibilities to play with the smartphone’s built-in technology. GPS, camera, gyroscope, all of these can be used in an app.

Another advantage of mobile apps: They are used over longer periods of time; taking game-apps into account, they are nowadays used more than mobile and desktop based web combined!

Distilling Content

To create a successful app, a company should first of all analyze their profile, products and the intended effect of the app. Agencies are happy to help any company lacking a marketing department. When you haven’t learned to analyze yourself, it may be quite hard to get rid of that organizational blindness and judging your own business impartially.

Questions which may help in developing an app strategy:

  • Is our main objective to gain new customers, keep the existing ones or just offer an additional channel for orders?
  • What does the customer find especially useful or interesting about our website and our products?
  • Which products and services do we offer, and do we want to advertise all of them or only a selected part of our portfolio?
  • Who is our target group? Who are we designing the app for?
  • How do we intend to address this target group? In a serious way, humorously or informative?
  • In which places and situations are our products relevant?

Armed with those clear parameters you will find it much easier to create a perfect to-the-point app.

Package products beautifully

Just creating any app is not enough by far. The users do have to want to use it, too. Considerable added benefit for customers, or creativity – or both – are the most important factors.

Quite often apps are not a spitting image of the products they represent, especially when only very abstract goods or services are available. In these cases it’s helpful to distill certain attributes and develop the app in a way similar to creating an advertisement or a promotional gift.

When it’s fun to use, makes people dream or is just extremely useful, an app is much more likely to be successful than an app which was really meant to become a pragmatic and short website.

Despite all abstraction you should not forget: a clearly visible hint about the “sponsoring” company should always be integrated, so your business will profit from the app, too. You might even decide to use your app as a channel for direct marketing.

Creating attractive and useful content

Service with added benefit: Let’s assume you’re a countrywide distributor of flowers, jewellery, or presents. What would be more adequate than an app which accesses the smartphone’s calendar and reminds of anniversaries, birthdays and important holidays like the user’s own wedding day or Valentine’s Day! The benefit you add is the option to send flowers or gifts straightaway from the calendar, and stressed husbands or forgetful managers will be forever grateful!

Additional customer channel: a reprographic service provider, for example, can enable his customers to access their own print jobs directly and let them make last-minute changes.

You can add benefit by supplying practical information the customer will use in certain situations. Travel agents or travel companies – in high demand now in the summertime – might supply their customers with concise information about their travel destinations: vaccination, customs, things you should bring along. This way they’ll leave a lasting impression on the customers’ mind, and he’ll be back for the next booking.

Seasonal gardening tips and plant ideas by garden centers, a DIY-app with instructions and product information for hardware stores or construction supply shops, exclusive recipes and cooking tips from a food producer, or maybe a crazy animal game made by a pet food online shop – there are no limits to your ideas!

Just let your fantasy run free at the start, the programming can be done later!

Android, iPhone, or more?

This question between the two market leaders comes up as soon as you start programming the app. There are of course big differences between iPhone and Android. This is why you need to write code for both platforms and may need to decide - depending on your budget - which market you would like to be available for first – or exclusively.

Instead of creating a native app you may also go for a web app, which runs independently of the smartphone’s OS in the browser and is saved as a bookmark rather than downloaded by the customer.

The technical possibilities – especially in the utilization of hardware – are not as advanced as those of native apps, but are constantly growing. Since distribution doesn’t happen via AppStore or AndroidMarket, updates can be made a lot more quickly. On the other hand, native apps are used more frequently because they’re easier to access.

With programmes like appinstitute you can even program apps for Android, iPhone and Windows yourself and view the first results. However, you won’t create high class, beautiful results and more elaborate apps like a good agency will supply.

Your app needs advertising, too!

An app doesn’t sell itself. Offering it via AppStore or Android Market is not enough. When your app drowns amongst thousands of other apps, your return will be rather small.

Hence use all channels to promote your app! Your own and partner websites, newsletters to customers, social networks, local advertising and press releases to print and online media need to talk about the launch of your app and its functions.

Success will then follow not just for the short term, but also remain in the long run.