As more and more consumers rely on their mobile devices for personal and business use, the need for a mobile app is rapidly growing. 2015 was dubbed “The Year of the Mobile Web,” so small businesses without a mobile presence have already fallen far behind.
There’s typically only one reason these businesses hold out: money.
The cost of a mobile app
In January 2015, Clutch conducted a survey of a number of leading mobile app developers to determine the average overall cost of building an iPhone/Android app, including the factors or variables that affect cost the most. The findings put the average cost of mobile app development between $37,913 and $171,450. For a small business, even the lower end of this price range is a hefty one to swallow, especially without an immediate return on investment.
Luckily, the average price has fallen drastically. While the numbers may be a bit out of date, the data can still help us identify the features carrying the highest cost when developing a mobile app: the infrastructure, features and design. On the less expensive end is the planning, deployment and even testing that goes into the mobile app’s release.
Why mobile development is more accessible now
Technology often changes so fast that as soon as data like the above is released, newer technology has made development more accessible, thus lowering costs. As mobile development has become more popular and important in today’s business world, the number of app builders on the market also grown. More providers means more competitive pricing; there are more options to choose from, and some of these options are remarkably cheap compared to the prices we were seeing just a year or more ago.
Also on the rise is app development software. Some of these software or app development services are designed for a small business to make their own mobile app at a very low price. As long as a business owner is willing to take the time and effort required, these hyper user-friendly tools can drastically reduce overhead.
The evolution of mobile is almost identical to the changes we’ve witnessed in web development through its infancy and beyond. In the early stages of the Internet, having a website became an undisputed necessity for businesses, but development was costly. There was only a small number of developers and designers available. Now, there are a number of inexpensive services that allow anyone to make their own functioning website with relative ease.
The future of small businesses and mobile development
With a mobile app becoming a much more reasonable investment for a small business to swallow, the future looks very positive. Recent data reports that roughly a quarter of small businesses already have a mobile app and another 27% of them have plans to enter the mobile world in the next year or so. As prices go down and accessibility goes up, these numbers are likely to increase rapidly.
Part of the shift from uncertainty to conviction is simple education. Small businesses ambivalent about adopting mobile may have been quoted for an app a year or more ago and still believe it’s out of their price range. Others fail to see how a mobile app will impact their business or how it’s relevant to their industry.
What mobile development can be used for
At the core of all business apps, there’s one of a number of key drivers:
Accessibility & visibility -- As mobile search volume continues to grow, adopting a mobile platform is more and more important for accessibility and visibility. If consumers can’t find you or interact with your brand in the mobile environment, they may defect to a mobile competitor. Alternatively, attracting new customers without a mobile app could become harder and harder; your business is less discoverable and you lack a key tool to keep you up-to-date and competitive in your industry.
Internal processes & productivity -- While we often think of apps as a new platform for our customers to engage with, mobile development also improves internal processes and productivity. Many companies utilize desktop software to facilitate certain day-to-day business processes. A mobile-centric version of this software could further enhance these processes. After all, mobile is, well, mobile, which means you can perform these processes on the go instead of sitting down to fire up your desktop.
Customer experience -- Without mobile, a customer’s relationship with your brand or company is interrupted the moment they walk out the door. By providing a mobile app experience, that relationship does not have to end. Your brand is more accessible, appears more personable, and can stimulate more communication. Improving the customer experience ultimately increases brand loyalty and reduces churn.
All of these factors and others have direct relationships to profits. The more visible you are, the more discoverable you are to new and existing customers. Internal mobile apps boost productivity and, perhaps more than ever, time is money. Lastly, a mobile app is key to enhancing the customer experience, which is becoming more and more important to audiences. It is no longer about offering the best product and quality, you also need to provide the best experience and mobile is one of the most important facets of that.
The mobile world took off like a rocket. In a few short years, it moved from a trend and a business luxury to an accessible and vital dimension of the modern business. In the past, small businesses couldn’t afford to invest in this rapidly growing, mobile world. But as mobile has grown, so has the number of app developers and services available, reducing the costs of mobile adoption.
Even though only about a quarter of small businesses have entered the mobile app world, more expect to join soon. Those who remain unconvinced may be swayed as prices go down and accessibility goes up. And for the rest, a little bit of education on how mobile can impact their success could set them over the edge.