Should Your Tourism Business Have an App - ETAG WORKSHOP

As part of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group's autumn program of workshops and seminars, I got the train to the capital to sit in on Alexander Cole's session on the business case for tourism apps. 

A key issue some tourism business have is that they actually have an app. And as a result a big part of their problem is justifying having the app in the first place. For others, it's building a business case for creating an app. 

And then what about monetising the app; is this is a good idea, and how do you do it in the first place? 

All of these issues and more were discussed by Alexander and the attendees at the workshop. 


A crucial question before even considering dropping coin on having an app developed - for any business - is "what's our goal?" 

We need to know the goals our app is supposed to score for us

We need to know the goals our app is supposed to score for us


The benefits for having an app can be huge, but if we don't have a clear goal for what it's supposed to do for us before we develop it, then it can be a massive waste of our time, and, more importantly, our cash. After all, apps are just small experiences that exist on our phones. Therefore the app must clearly show our customers - and us - what it's supposed to do for us.

They work well when they do one thing, really well. 


We also need to remember that a lot of the intentions we may have for our app could actually be accomplished on our website. So it follows that an app should offer something that we can't readily offer via our website on a mobile device. 



A massive issue when starting at ground zero with mobile apps, how will our target market even know we have an app in the first place?  We must consider this, again, before considering spending any cash on building a new app.

At the end of the day, a lot of the goals we're trying to accomplish can actually be achieved by making sure our website is reponsive and has all the information about our tourism business a potential customer would need to know. 


On top of that, keeping our Google+ and Facebook presence updated will go along way to helping new and potential visitors and customers knowing all they need to know about it. 

So, do we really need to build an app


There are three good reasons; 

  1. hardware access (camera, audio, video GPS)
  2. high interactivity (games, deep experiences)
  3. stable, walled-garden platform

For tourism businesses, an app can afford our visitors a more intense experience, depending on the type of tourism business we have. For example, a museum app could offer an "augmented reality" experience by using the customer's camera and then overlaying information on their mobile device's screen.

And for restaurants, for example, the walled-garden element of an app can provide a streamlined experience for booking a table or ordering take-away food. 

Now, what if our plan for an app is to push notifications to the devices of the people who've installed it. Is this a justifiable reason to develop an app? 


As Alexander explained each time use push a notification, you're effectively grabbing the person by the shoulders, shaking them and saying "listen to me!". You only get to do this a few times before "pissing the customer off". 

And is that what we really want to do? 


Alexander outlined three reasons

  1. no unique functions necessary
  2. information delivery over interactivyt
  3. budget and simplicity

We'd be better to make sure out website is both up to date in terms of business information and functionality on a mobile device. And that's because a lot of the things we hope an app will do for us should actually be taken care of by our website.


It's well known that there are essentially two shop fronts that our app can appear on. The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. And that's because there are two eco-systems that our customers will be using; iPhones and Android phones. 

And in those two markets there are variables. For example, there are 4 sizes of iPhone screen and there are dozens of Android phones with varying screen sizes. And then you have Apple and Android tablets, which present a different user experience when it comes to apps. 

All of this must be factored in when we're considering an app, and a competent app developer should be able to advise on this and create an app that scales well across screen sizes, as well as developing for each ecosystem! 


A big thing that came out of our group discussions on apps is that we all hate businesses or website that try to push us to install their app

If the app is good, if the app is worthwhile, if it offers clear benefits for having space on our phone, it shouldn't need to be aggressively pushed at people, such as TripAdvisor does! 


Well, the easiest answer is "how long is a piece of string?". Bearing in mind that our app should be developed for iOS and Android and it will completely depend on what we want the app to do, you're not looking at an inexpensive business investment. 

For example, 21 percent of businesses who have an app have spent between £35,000-£80,000 for development! And how long did it take before it was launched? For 28% of them it took between 7-9 months! 

Think about that for a second. 

We're assuming these apps are going to generate sales for the businesses in questions, it's a huge out-going cash-wise. And you're waiting the best part of the year for it to be available for download, where we hope it'll make money for us. 

Again, knowing these things are essential for any business ahead of deciding to develop an app. 

To help us plan and budget, within a ballpark, Alexander pointed us to a handy on-line calculator:


In summary, you should have clear business reasons that are measurable before spending a penny on an app. And you need to make sure that your goals for the app can't already be taken care of by your website, making sure that it's optimised for mobile devices first. And also make sure your social networks have all the info your potential customers need from you.

Once you've done that, and you have a great idea for your customer experience that only an app can offer, then proceed. 

If you have questions about app development for your business, get in touch with Alexander via the Peekabu website.

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