These days, it seems like everyone is trying to get in on the app game.
Just a few years ago, only 7 percent of companies had fully implemented app strategies, while 51 percent had none. Flash forward to now, and not only do 90 percent of companies have apps, but 60 percent spend time and money on continually reviewing and updating those apps.
For most, this is a waste of resources.
When Apps Are a Waste
For some brands, an app makes perfect sense. Amazon.com and Target, for instance, have their own apps consumers use regularly, so investing in the upkeep garners a return. It’s worth it for them.
However, if you’re in an industry like e-commerce, your app probably won’t end up being used very often, and people don’t like keeping apps they don’t use. The vast majority of apps aren’t even kept for 24 hours. Fewer than 30 percent of apps are retained for more than a day, and by the end of a month, that number has plummeted to about 3 percent.
So when your brand pours out resources to develop an app that isn’t used, that’s a lot of throwaway with very little to show for it.
Top App Alternatives
Even if an app isn’t right for your business, you still need a digital presence. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at these three options:
1. Build a responsive site. With one in 10 Americans using Amazon's app to make recurring purchases, the app makes sense. However, unless your customers need a special platform to buy from you, a responsive website will do everything you need it to.
A responsive site is supported by any device a customer uses, making it easy for them to jump from desktop to mobile to tablet. Furthermore, it will be cheaper. With a responsive website, your brand focuses on maintaining one mobile experience rather than several.
2. Participate in other native apps. If your app wouldn’t be used every day, it makes more sense to participate on a native app that customers will use regularly. Your brand will gain visibility without the efforts of building an entire app.
Look at the fashion app Spring, for example. Brands join for free, then pay out a small percentage of sales. According to the CEO of shoe brand Greats, Spring was instrumental to the company’s success. And Greats didn’t have to waste resources building it.
3. Use a remote application platform. If you’re curious about whether an app is right for your company, test the waters with a remote application platform (RAP). A RAP looks like a downloadable app, but it’s a direct link to your website. It’s cheap and easy to implement, and it will reveal whether customers would use an app enough to justify its creation.
Keep in mind that these trends change. For example, your data might look different in six months. It’s important to monitor consumer trends and watch how they behave.
Who knows? A smartphone’s storage could increase, and suddenly everyone will be saying, “Sure, I’ll keep 70 apps.” But until then, consider whether an app will bring your business value. With all the resources you would put toward developing and maintaining an app, your funds might be better spent on some other aspect of your company.
Erik Huberman, one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, is founder and CEO of Hawke Media, an outsourced digital CMO agency.