Is your company already established in terms of its internal structures but you don’t have expertise in m-commerce? If so, you probably have little to no picture of how your app needs to look, what functions it should have, what results you want to get, and what you as an owner need to do to make it a valuable part of your business.
Mobile app development in this case looks like an extremely vague and complex task. The hardest thing at this point is to understand where to begin; this is the question we’ll answer here.
Before you begin working on your mobile application, realize that the chances that you’ll be able to make it on your own are close to none.
The second thing you need to understand is that if you try to build a mobile app on your own, it will be extremely expensive and it will take you a very long time to gain internal expertise if you don’t already have it.
Your next step is to give an honest answer to the question: Why do you want a mobile app in the first place? In general, there are two reasons why businesses want mobile apps:
- You see that your competitors already have mobile applications and you don’t want to fall behind.
- You want to get an advantage and be the first to launch an application, making you unique among your competitors.
Both of these reasons are completely valid. Let’s talk about what you should do in each of these cases.
Reason 1: Competitors
Wanting to build an application because your competitors have apps is a great reason, actually. Usually, the initiative for this move comes either from the CEO or from the marketing department.
This indicates that there’s still time to grow your business and occupy your niche in the market
“All our competitors are already there, and we aren’t. Why?” © Typical retail company CEO
The first thing you should do, if competitors are the reason you want to build your mobile application, is to look at what your competitors are doing. Download their apps and analyze their approaches. Go all the way through from choosing an item to placing an order. Investigate their applications thoroughly and look at how their checkouts work. After that, answer these questions about each app:
- What do I like about the app?
- What don’t I like about it?
- Are the features the same as on the website or does the app offer something more?
- What could be done better?
You can do this exercise with your research and development board, including your CTO, CIO, CEO, and marketing director.
Reason 2: Strike ahead
If you’re not concerned about the competition, you may have several reasons for wanting to get an advantage by launching your application first.
Maybe you see great traffic from your mobile website but there are certain problems with conversion: for example, people add products to their carts but don’t make it to the checkout. Through your mobile website it may be really difficult to reach out to these potential customers, especially if they don’t log in.
There can also be technical problems with your mobile website related to latency or the user experience.
Or you might merely want to give your business new breath and use all the possibilities of mobile devices, such as:
- Push notifications
- NFC purchases
… and others.
Each of these reasons is perfectly fine.
In case mobile app development doesn’t seem like a great investment for your business, your business it either hasn’t gained enough market share yet and can’t afford such an investment or there’s a high probability that this business risks becoming irrelevant.
3 Approaches to Gaining Mobile App Expertise
What is mobile app expertise? It’s a deep knowledge about the mobile market and understanding of what you want from your mobile app: what it should look like, what it should do, and what results it should give to your business. There are four approaches to developing a mobile app for your retail business if you lack mobile expertise inside your company.
Gain mobile expertise independently
- Your team inspects the mobile website and writes out all the functions it has. In the process you may realize that some functions are unnecessary, so you end up with a list of features to include in your app.
- This list then becomes a technical or functional specification for the app that you’ll build using your company’s resources.
- Create wireframes.
- Design the UI/UX.
Hire a specialist
Another option is to hire a specialist who has expertise in mobile product management. A specialist will be able to create a technical specification document based on a deep understanding of modern trends and the mobile market.
Another option is to grow a specialist inside your company by educating an existing employee.
What’s the downside of this approach? It will take lots of time. But if you choose to hire a specialist, you’ll also need time to find one, and it may be hard – such specialists are highly valued. Moreover, a specialist will need time to learn about your business and understand it.
If you wish to educate one of your current employees, you’ll need to wait until they learn and gain expertise. In either case, the whole process may take from one and a half to two years.
Time is a crucial factor with mobile apps. In this area, time-to-market is competitive and the first one is the winner. So while this approach may seem great, it will result in lost time.
Work with a mobile app development company
One of the main tasks of a mobile app development company is to be up on the latest trends. App development is their job, so there’s no one on the mobile app market who knows it better. A business analyst at an app development company will be able to immediately find out how your needs correspond to the company’s technical capabilities.
Work with a mobile development company will begin with a business analyst and technical specialist talking with you and your marketing director.
You’ll start by answering questions that will help to clarify your requirements. The first question is usually why you want to develop an app. The second is usually what you expect from it.
Companies that decide to gain expertise in mobile retailing on their own usually rely on the experience they already have with their mobile website. They know how the website works and what functions it has, so their approach is pretty straightforward – copy all the functionality from the website to an app.
The process looks like this:
This whole process will likely take around one year.
The main thing you should remember as the business owner is that mobile app development is only the first step. Your app needs to be maintained and supported continuously, just like brick-and-mortar shops and your website. Whenever there’s a change in your business logic, it also has to appear in the app.
How to Build Expectations
Imagine you already have a great mobile app. What does it provide? Maybe sales? Traffic? User satisfaction?
The answers to these questions will define the overall strategy of your mobile product. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, you’ll need to be flexible and watch for the reaction of your audience. You’ll need to make sure you add analytics in your app, for example Google Analytics or Flurry. Without analytics, your app will be absolutely useless.
If you care about the number of installs or registered users, you’ll need to invest in app store optimization and make sure you get positive reviews in the app market.
The questions the business analysis expert asks will help you understand whether they’re the right expert for you. While discussing your app, you’ll also be able to decide what you want it to do.
Two types of mobile apps for retail
There are, generally speaking, two types of mobile apps for retail:
- Apps that duplicate the store’s business model
- Apps that complement the store’s business model
We’ve already mentioned the first type – these applications fully duplicate the functionality of a mobile website.
Apps that complement your business model allow you to use new strategies for marketing and sales, attract a new audience, and make your business more unique. You can include features such as:
- A barcode scanner that customers can use in a physical store to see offers and discounts
- Augmented Reality that works in a physical shop
- Gamification, which is great for increasing sales and providing customers with special offers
To include features that complement your business model, you’ll need technical specifications that reflect your requirements. To create a specification, you’ll need to rely on either your internal resources or experts from a mobile development company.
All You Should Know About the Development Process
Choosing an expert
When it comes to creating a specification, our advice is to first think about your future app on your own and use your internal expertise to determine your preliminary requirements. This will get you on the same page with the experts you’ll talk to later.
Next, we advise meeting with around five different business analysts from different mobile development companies before choosing the company you trust most. Also, avoid going over budget – don’t hire the most expensive development company right away before you even know the best way to use a mobile app for your business.
Functional specifications and estimates
Now it’s time to make a specification. Remember that there are two parallel processes in mobile development: app development (frontend) and API development (backend). You’ll need to set up a database that the mobile app will receive information from.
The backend needs to provide great performance – otherwise, your app will perform poorly, which will affect your company’s reputation. Remember that user experience affects sales.
After your specification is ready, it’s time to estimate the terms of work and the budget. The budget will include:
- UI/UX design
- Functional development
- Backend API development
Before development begins, you’ll need to confirm the milestones, scope, and budget.
Note that there’s a separate stage when the frontend and backend start to work together. It can sometimes take several months to get things right.
Before the release
There are certain things you should do before your app is ready for its first release.
The first thing is app store marketing. Make sure you have a beautiful image, a great description, and a good logo and screenshots. It’s also extremely important to have a person who will answer comments in the app markets.
All legal issues also need to be settled. For example, you’ll need to decide who will be the app store account owner at least two months before the release.
After the release
After your application is finally in the app store, you should be ready for the following:
- No one will need your app. Traffic won’t appear on its own, so you’ll need to market your application. Be ready to allocate a budget for that.
- There will be bugs, so you’ll need a maintenance team.
- There will be users with devices you’ve never even heard of, and most likely the app won’t work properly on them. Be ready for some negative reviews.
Don’t forget about the main instrument for your app’s success: analytics. The first time you upload an application to the app store, wait until you get feedback. Check the analytics and read reviews. Based on them, release the second version of your app with a hotfix, and only after that should you begin your marketing campaign and buy traffic.
Use analytics to optimize your app and do A/B testing.
Retail companies can get internal expertise in using a mobile app to improve business. However, developing internal expertise will most likely take too much time, which is extremely valuable in a highly competitive environment. Attempting to enter a new market without proper knowledge will cost very much both in money and time.
We advise you to hire professionals who have been in the market for a long time and who know both business trends and technical trends in the field. Collaborating with a mobile app development company will help you find out what your needs and expectations are and live up to them.
With the help of a mobile app development company you’ll be able to get the mobile expertise you need, then manage your application on your own.
If you want to find the perfect company for your retail mobile app, contact Mobindustry: maybe we’re right for you?