Do you need an app? Probably not.

It has been noted that people spend approximately 85% of their time in apps when using their mobile devices. Based on this there are a number of consultants who believe that if you want to capture the attention of people on mobile, you need an app. If you are a small or even medium sized business, I believe this is not a valid analysis or proper extrapolation of this data.

First of all, people really only use a handful of apps for that majority of time. According to Apptentive, people on average use only 6 to 10 apps a week. This includes the native mail app or gmail app, iOS maps or google maps, the native messenger app or WhatsApp, and then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat for social media.

Amazon is tops for ecommerce and then there is also eBay and other big name retailers. People will also regularly use utilities like the calculator, weather, and then banking apps. The other major category of mobile apps getting people’s attention are the multitude of games.

So while the statistics show the high percentage of time spent in apps, this is in a very small number of very common apps. It is unlikely a substantial number of people will download, let alone use your app regularly. To gain any significant adoption you will need to knock off one of the common/popular apps listed above.

Having said all that, you may benefit from an app with a niche set of customers if you have a strong brand and/or very loyal customer base and provide a service or functionality that would benefit from an app. Obviously, if you are in the mobile game making business you are going to need to build apps. And there is nothing wrong with building an app to compete with one of the main ones above knowing that is what you fully intend to do.

However, particularly if you are in the ecommerce space, your best opportunity to engage customers on mobile is going to be an adaptive/responsive website. I write all this as I have seen multiple times where an organization has poured a ton of resources and time to make an app and gained absolutely nothing in return. Apps are not the answer to engaging people on mobile.

It is far more likely that people may be linked to your service/content from mobile google search or from advertising within a social app like Facebook or Twitter and people will be using the in-app browser to view your website. Which will make it all the more critical that your website is optimized for mobile long before you need to worry about getting an app.

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