With COVID-19 putting a pause on retail, there’s never been a better time to launch an app


Appetiser Apps co-founders Jamie Shostak and Michael MacRae (left to right).

If your business has a physical space, then you’ll no doubt be well aware of the extreme impact coronavirus has had on regular, day-to-day working life. Staff, customers, and leaders alike are all currently stuck in limbo, with no clear indication as to when things will return back to normal. 

Thankfully, the digital world offers a lifeline. Online ordering, teleconferencing and digital communication are all helping to keep businesses stay connected to their customers. Apps are a big part of the digital puzzle, often acting as the closest substitute a business has to a physical store. 

So if your company has been struggling to make the transition from offline to online, here are some ways to help ease the shift.

Getting your features right

There are several common app features that have become even more important in the current climate, especially if your app is one of the primary ways your business makes sales and communicates with customers. 

Push notifications, for example, are one of the most underrated sales channels out there. They’re far less diluted than email, and as a result businesses can get some great cut through. 

Focus on designing messaging that simply gives the customer the information they need in an unobtrusive way, otherwise, you could risk customers turning off their app notifications, or even worse, deleting your app entirely. 

Push is especially helpful for keeping your customer in the loop regarding deliveries. In a time when many online orders are being cancelled or delayed, notifications sent straight to your customer’s home screen can be a great way to put their mind at rest. 

One-click payments are another great feature to work into your app, especially if you’re a business that sells essential goods that are purchased repeatedly. With one-click set up, your customer receives a notification asking if they want to repurchase their items, they click on ‘repeat order’, and it’s done. 

During the current crisis, shopping has the potential to cause a huge amount of anxiety. By making the process as frictionless as possible, apps can reassure customers, giving them one less thing to worry about.

Finding your MVP

With a recession looming, businesses need to learn to pivot quickly and make efficient and smart decisions. Part of this involves knowing when to cut back, and learning how to focus solely on those core features that will make or break your app. 

A minimum viable product ⁠— otherwise known as an MVP ⁠— is about launching your app with the minimum amount of features required to solve the problem you’re focusing on. Then, once the app is launched, you can use real-time user feedback and interaction data to point you in the right direction for your next update. 

An MVP doesn’t mean launching a half-baked, cheap app. It’s about producing a clean, simple but effective app that does a few core features really, really well. This is critical, because all customer touchpoints ⁠— especially apps ⁠— can have a big effect on brand value. 

Choose the right tech

Make sure you do your homework on the different technologies available, and ensure you’ve made the right choice for your specific needs. Native development is typically recommended over react or hybrid models for the lowest ongoing costs and the highest quality. 

However, this does mean that you might have to choose between Apple or Android in the outset, especially if you need to push your app out quickly. According to Statcounter, Apple (iOs) is currently the dominant operating system in Australia. Don’t forget to drill down into your existing online data to see exactly which operating systems your customers are using. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that apps aren’t necessarily the right solution for every single problem. If you’re a small family-run restaurant, for example, you’d probably be better served by selling your menu via a pre-existing food delivery app than trying to build your own. Why not go where your customers already are?  

Marketing your app

Sure, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to push heavily when it comes to marketing your app. Remember that while physical shopping is down for obvious reasons, mobile revenue, mobile app usage, and e-commerce are all up. 

With more eyeballs online, now is actually the perfect time to launch and market your app digitally. The first step is to send out word of your new app through email or SMS to your existing databases. Next, retarget ads to existing leads, to let them know that it’s here and ready to solve their problems. 

The Apple App Store and/or the Google Play store are also important places to market your app. Make sure you’re optimising for the correct keywords and encouraging users to review your app. 

Finally, try using deep linking to help specific people reach the part of your app that solves their specific problem. If you can avoid forcing them to fuss around spending ten minutes signing up and loading the page they need, they’ll be far more likely to appreciate your efforts.

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