In today’s fast-paced mar­ket, busi­nesses are aim­ing at mov­ing tar­gets. Mobile is no longer just nice to have; it’s an essen­tial com­po­nent of any mar­ket­ing plan.

Accord­ing to a report from Walker Sands, nearly one-fourth of all web­site traf­fic came from mobile devices in the first quar­ter of 2013—that’s a 78 per­cent increase from 2012, and a 109 per­cent increase from 2011. Plus, mobile shop­pers con­vert at a higher rate than desk­top shop­pers, accord­ing to Inter­net Retailer.

So, there’s no ques­tion that even the small­est busi­nesses should have a mobile web­site … but do you need an app? That depends on what you’re sell­ing, what you’re try­ing to achieve, and what your cus­tomer data tells you.

Apps Done Well

Many com­pa­nies have sig­nif­i­cantly enhanced user expe­ri­ence, brand­ing, and rev­enue by sup­ple­ment­ing their mobile sites with a stand­alone app.

  • Mar­riott: In addi­tion to a strong m-commerce site, Mar­riott offers an app that lets cus­tomers find a local hotel, book a room, and check in. The company’s mobile invest­ment has paid off, with an annual growth rate of 250 per­cent.
  • Delta Air­lines: The Fly Delta app lets trav­el­ers check in, get an e-boarding pass, pay for bags, and even down­load in-flight enter­tain­ment from a smart­phone or tablet.
  • Ama­zon: With Amazon’s Price Check app, shop­pers can scan a bar­code and see Amazon’s price for the item. Plus, Ama­zon receives the store’s sell­ing price and uses that for mar­ket analysis.
  • eBay Mobile: The auc­tion site’s sales were lag­ging when the new CEO devel­oped mobile apps for buy­ing and sell­ing. The invest­ment paid off—sales rose by 15 per­cent, and Neilsen reported 13.2 mil­lion users in 2012.
  • Star­bucks: Busy cof­fee lovers no longer have to carry around a pre­paid store card. With the Star­bucks app, they can pay right on their phones. As of March 2013, the app was gen­er­at­ing 3 mil­lion trans­ac­tions per week.

Could Your Busi­ness Ben­e­fit from an App?

The answer lies in your busi­ness objec­tives and, most impor­tantly, in your data. Using tools like the Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud’s mobile ser­vices, you can look at data points to answer these ques­tions before decid­ing to build an app:

  • Who are you build­ing the app for? New cus­tomers, exist­ing cus­tomers, or both? Are you attempt­ing to boost sales in a par­tic­u­lar mar­ket segment?
  • How do your cus­tomers like to shop or inter­act with content?
  • What types of devices does your audi­ence use? Most of today’s mobile users have Apple or Android. You might con­sider start­ing with one plat­form and test­ing before rolling out to both.
  • Will users need to access func­tions that are spe­cific to their smart­phones, such as cam­eras, GPS loca­tors, or offline capabilities?

Test­ing for Success

Before build­ing an app, think strate­gi­cally about the pur­pose it will serve. Users will only down­load an app if it truly adds value by mak­ing their lives eas­ier, more fun, or more prof­itable. An app that underperforms—or isn’t used at all—can do more harm than good to your brand.

Once the app is in place, you can use solu­tions like Adobe Tar­get to con­nect the ana­lyt­ics data to opti­miza­tions. Your ideal cus­tomer never stops changing—and you shouldn’t, either.