Mobile Apps

Getting Started with Small Business App Development

Considering that Apple's App Store generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers in 2014, it's no surprise that everyone's working on an app. However, small businesses looking to cash in big this way face major hurdles. Successfully developing an app is challenging enough, but businesses must also navigate the confusing app approval process.

Related: How This Startup is Making Mobile App Development Easier

And the final hurdle is getting the app to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

That's why, to overcome the challenges, you need to have the right strategy in place, from day one.

Phase one: app development

Best app makers for small businesses

Outsourcing app development can be tricky, especially if you’re not on the same page as your developers. The market experts at The App Solutions recommend treating your app development like any freelance project -- and, based on my own experience, I certainly agree. Put together a project brief, establish a project timeline and check in regularly to monitor progress. What's more:

  • Know what you want: Before getting started, consider which elements are most essential to your app’s success. What goal are you trying to achieve with your app? Is the app part of a software as a service offering, or are you using it as an ecommerce platform? Do you need social media integration?
  • Talk to the developer before you hire. Whether yours is a Hangouts chat or a Skype call, take the time to talk with your developer before getting started, to ensure you’re on the same page about expectations. Discuss important milestones up front and your contact plan for managing communication.

Phase two: app approval

Navigating the app approval process

Prepare your app for submission. Review the submission guidelines. For Apple, this includes the iOS Human Interface Guidelines, the Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines and the App Store Review Guidelines.

For Android, follow the Android launch checklist. Take time to understand Google play policies and agreements, thinking about how to test for quality and how to determine your app’s content rating. Ensure that your app complies with the maximum size requirements; on Google Play, this means 100 MB.

If your app exceeds this max, you can offer a secondary download with APK expansion files, which Google Play will host for free on its server infrastructure. You can use up to two expansion files (up to 2GB in size) for each APK.

Failure to confirm with Apple and Google guidelines will cause unnecessary delays with the approval process.

Phase three: app downloads

Standing out in a crowded marketplace

App store optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in an app’s store. Sixty-three percent of apps are discovered through app store searches. And, just like with Google search results, the higher your app ranks in the app store, the greater the chance of a download. Increased visibility translates directly into more traffic for your app’s page in the app store.

ASO requires a clear understanding of your target customer, including which keywords your target customer will be using to search for downloads. For most small businesses, your customer will be searching for terms related directly to your business products or services. If your business name is well known, brand affinity can also help boost your position in search results.

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide To Building Your First Mobile App

Boost your ASO and downloads with the following:

  • Title: Place your most important keywords in your title. Take time to research which keywords are most relevant for your target audience. Focus in on the two-to-three keywords (or keyword phrase) that matter the most. According to Kissmetrics, keyword title integration boosts app store ranking by 10.3 percent. That’s a huge bump in a crowded marketplace.
  • Link directly from your website: Take advantage of your customers’ natural affinity for your brand, by including a download link on your website. Three great examples of this are the small business must-have apps Best International Money TransferBoxMeUp, and Evernote. Or, include a download link in an email footer.

The Bottom Line

There’s no denying that in 2016, we're living in a mobile world. Globally, we spend more time on our smartphones than we do our desktops. Even if your B2B customers are still primarily desktop users, a mobile app can be a huge boon to your business. But the wrong app -- like a bad product -- can also hurt your business' brand credibility.

Related: 5 Development Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Mobile App

So, be clear about development expectations from day one. Understand the rules for app submission and approval. And once your app is approved, don't assume customers will immediately download it; you'll need to optimize the app store listing for maximum visibility. With the right strategy in place from day one, you can overcome these hurdles and help your small business flourish in 2016.