Should You Build a Smartphone App?

iphone screen

Thinking about apps?

Should you build a smartphone app? I don’t know. What I do know is if you haven’t asked yourself that question you need to do so very soon. Here are some stats to digest…

  • Smartphone penetration as of June 2011 reached  38%
  • 55% of new phone sales are smartphones
  • Nearly 50% of smartphone owners are 25-44
  • Mobile application downloads are expected to reach 48 billion (uh huh, that’s a B) in 2015

So it’s fairly obvious that you need to ask the question. How to get to an answer is a little more difficult. We would, for most businesses, recommend that a base level of customer facing information (e.g. product, about us) and tools (e.g. store locator) be made available in mobile friendly formats (more on apps versus mobile sites coming up in the next post).  For this discussion let’s assume you have that base level covered. If you don’t have it covered, you probably want to do that first.

To get closer to an answer on the app questions, ask your self these questions

  1. Does your target customer fall into the smartphone user demographic?
  2. If so, are there brand or product related tasks that they would potentially use their phone for on a semi-regular (e.g. not one time or rarely) basis?
  3. If the answer to question two was no, then would it make sense to use an app to sell (e.g. think about helping then shop) to your customers?
  4. If the answer to number two and three are no, then ask yourself this: would it make sense to use an app to inform or entertain them?

To help you think in general terms about what people are using their mobile phones for the most, here are the top activities of US smartphone owners: email, games, social networking, instant messaging, mapping and directions, music and radio, and weather apps – these are the growth areas.

Vintage ratings on mobile anyone?

With this this data in mind, let’s think about an example of a case where we would and a case where we wouldn’t consider using a smart phone app…


  • A brand with lots of valuable data that their customers access frequently
  • The customers like to search and sort the data
  • This may be a great opportunity for a branded app
  • Examples: IMDB, RedBox, Wine Spectator


  • A brand has a commodity CPG product that competes on price and reach advertising (e.g. loss leader)
  • Customers do not research the product category much if at all
  • This is probably a good case for not doing an app
  • Examples: Brawny, Tide, Clorox

Of course no two business situations are identical and these are very simple examples. THINK specializes in helping brands understand their customers and then finding ways to break through the cluttered marketplace to make meaningful connections with them…some times through mobile sometimes in other ways. Please feel free to reach out to us, and of course do comment below!