Does your business need an app?

In this post we look at whether your business is ready to consider investing in the development of a smartphone application, known as an ‘app’.

I have many tourism businesses from around Australia ask me whether they should have a smartphone app developed.  The first question that I ask is “What do you actually want your potential customers to do?”  It sounds like a simple question, but having your answer clear in your mind can really help you make the right business decision.

Typically, the answers I receive are:

‘I want them to know we exist’…
‘We want more people to choose our property instead of the guy down the road’
‘I want them to book our attraction as soon as they see it online.’

In short, they want more customers booked and paid up.

Given that attracting more customers is the main focus, there are online marketing ‘must haves’ that will help you get more customers, which need to be considered before you start planning your app.

For example:

  • Is your website found at the top of relevant Google Searches?
  • Is your website easily read on various screen sizes?
  • So you will appear on search engine maps, do you have your business listed on Google Places?
  • Is your product able to be booked on your website?
  • Is your product able to be booked on other distributor websites?
  • When someone first views your website does it look good enough to retain interest?
  • Are you posting engaging content across various social media channels?

If you can answer a confident ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then you are on well on your way in planning for an app.

Again, it is useful to think like a customer and consider what need is your app going to fulfill?

Broadly speaking, for example, there are two types of apps that tourism businesses should consider:

  1. An ‘interpretation’ app that helps consumers find their way around your property, tour, attraction, restaurant etc.  This style of app should be full of information on what makes your product unique.   It may include some great features like GPS and ‘augmented reality’, where people can look though the phone screen and see an extra layer of information.  Having an interpretation app can save on signage and printed brochures.  A great example of an interpretation app is The O app at MONA.
  2. A tool for sales that allows people to get information and book your experience.  There are thousands of distributor sites booking apps  available and it would take a very innovative tourism operator owned app to get cut-though in the very busy market.

An example of a smaller business app which combines the interpretation and booking features is the Josef Chromy Wines Tasmania app. This app is available at both the Apple and Google Stores. It is not yet available at the Windows Store.

Advantages of Apps:

  • Captive audience
  • Good way to enhance branding
  • Can be very interactive
  • Can use smartphone features such as torch, camera and GPS
  • Can be used without an internet connection

Disadvantages of Apps:

  • Can be costly to develop
  • Need to be developed across different platforms
  • Requires updating to maintain currency
  • Requires promoting on the web and within the app store
  • Requires user rating reviews to be valued
  • Some people may be reluctant to download over 3G/4G network because of data costs.

Finally, it makes more sense to build an app once your other online marketing activities are in order.  If they are, then an app can be an effective additional tool to interact with your audience.

Rebecca King


Blog written by Kingthing Marketing

Rebecca is a multi-award winning tourism marketing consultant who has worked in small business, State Government, the airline industry, media and now as a Director of her own national tourism marketing consultancy Kingthing.

In the 5 years that Rebecca held the position of Marketing Manager at her Launceston based cruise company, they won 9 awards including Tasmanian Tourism Awards and the Telstra Business award for Innovation and Rebecca was awarded the 2006 Telstra Tasmanian Corporate Business Woman of the Year.