An example of a mobile app - NFC payment via a mobile

According to Flurry Analytics Comscore, 80 per cent of iOS and Android usage is spent on apps, leaving only 20 per cent on browser activity. Given this, deciding to design and launch a mobile app for your business can be the exciting first step towards greater product uptake as well as a source of tremendous publicity.

From small-scale apps that are fun and great for marketing to more serious apps that offer valuable services, this technology can do a lot for your business’s brand.

Here are 9 points to make that first step a strong step in the right direction. You’ll see how the first action leads to the desired result.

1. Define your target audience and reach out to potential customers

Even before development has begun, decide who you want to communicate with. You’ll also need to think about the devices they’ll likely be using as each type of handset is different. The usability requirements for apps used on an iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia and Android are not the same, so you’ll need to ask Who? and What? before taking the first step.

Once you know who you’ll be dealing with you can make better choices about the level of branding, industry jargon and detail to use in the app. Will they want a stylish display or will some cold, hard figures impress them?

2. Identify your objective to reach your goal

Your goal is not to have a successful app. What you want is to communicate clearly and effectively with a group of potential consumers, intrigue and entice them into fully engaging in everything the app (and your business) has to offer, get them to buy into or purchase your product, and then to repeat the experience and build brand loyalty. It’s the repetition that counts.

How each of these above steps is identified will vary for every business out there, even though the objective and goal is the same. Being specific will show you a clear plan of action, which will multiply the app’s chances of success – and yours.

4. Get users’ attention with an excellent idea then follow-through app downloads

An app is not a business website. This can be surprisingly difficult to grasp. Anyone interested in your company can ­­– and do – visit the website. Outside of a shop, it’s usually the first port of call. So don’t repeat yourself and make your efforts redundant by duplicating the website material in an app. Find that single thing that will set it apart and make a possible customer look twice.

Maybe your business operates in a niche market – use that unique selling point. The Swarm app, for example, lets friends know when other friends are in their area so they can plan an impromptu meet-up. Maybe a product you produce or a service you offer is one-of-a-kind, so trumpet that to the world. Instagram was a simple but new concept when it got started. Even if your app offers little that’s new, it still needs to stand out from the competition with an eye-catching gimmick, a promotion or an endorsement. Make it fun, fresh and hotly publicised with your app and it will have further reason to grab headlines.

One last word of advice: keep it simple. An app should be a streamlined version of a website in many respects wherever it displays the same information. Users will come to the app’s main purpose first and your business’s details second.

5. Decide whether to monetise and Increase the number of downloads

If you make the right decision about whether to monetise your app or not it will result in a lot of downloads or greater revenues. If the app is really a marketing tool to get your business brand out there and established then give it wings and offer it as a free download. No one will want to pay for something that is essentially just about shining the spotlight on your company. If you can make it worth a user’s while or a bit of fun during the process with secret deals, games or interactive media they will agree that there’s something in it for them.

There’s also a good number of priced apps that have gone on to make their companies millions of pounds. They usually offer a service that is genuinely useful, novel or as-yet unoffered to the world. If you’re able to do this, and to get a good marketing campaign behind the app, then you can put a price on it, and welcome. Making the right decision here will also guide the development of the app itself, so talk to the software designers and get their opinion on the project.

6. Don’t skimp on research so you can choose the right path

Market research will help with Point 1 (target audience) but it’s also a way of avoiding mistakes made by other companies attempting similar things with their apps. Just as you can’t break the rules without learning them first, it’s also true that you can’t be original until you know what’s been done already. If you don’t bother to ask about Who, What, When, Where and Why, you’ll be shouting into the wind and wondering why the message isn’t getting heard.

7. Check out the competition in order to build on their strengths and avoid their mistakes

The time spent reviewing and taking notes on competitors’ apps is time well spent. If those apps don’t suck you in or give you something to think seriously about you’ll know they are dead in the water. Visit the iTunes App Store, Google Play and other websites to see what’s out there. See how tech magazines rate the apps they review and pay attention to their reasons behind the score. Talk to your current customers and see what they’ve already downloaded or what gets them fired up about apps.

8. Pick the right publicity and get attention and adulation

How you reach out to your target audience will depend on both your business and the app. You may not need to release a trailer on YouTube a la Angry Birds but an informative or fun video on your website, some coverage on social media and an ad in the local (or national) press are all strategies that have worked for different apps. Don’t discount the power of publicity in physical locations either, where an app’s services will do the most good. We’ve come a long way since taxi phone numbers pinned to train station notice boards – but not much.

Start with loyal customers, friends and family members and branch out from there. If your app has widespread appeal, contact bloggers who might consider covering it in their blogs and posts in exchange for free access or a free product. Once you’ve got people talking about the app, you’re ready for Point 9.

9. Harness feedback so you can improve the offering

You’ll find out soon enough what’s a hit with the app and what needs a redesign, deletion or total re-think. Ask for feedback from users and make sure to thank them for giving it. It’s important that they know you’ll be acting on their suggestions and you’ll realise that a negative reaction to something is just a tool to reach excellence. It will also stop you from getting discouraged about a technical glitch. Here’s some interesting circular reasoning: when consumers tell you exactly what they want and you give it to them, you are giving them what they want.

A good deal for everyone

It’s important to note that apps can be useful to everyone without being advertising in disguise or an exercise in corporate altruism. Being useful to customers and beneficial to a brand aren’t mutually exclusive features when it comes to mobile apps. You can get a lot out of offering one so long as you put a lot into designing it. Think like the user and go from there.

We can design and build a mobile app for your business