Is It Profitable to Create a Mobile App?

It can be with the right combination of effort and luck

Coworkers in discussion over project in high tech startup office

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Mobile app development can be profitable but you need to be willing to invest considerable time and effort upfront. Even then, many factors will determine whether or not your mobile app becomes a financial success. Here we explore some of those factors.

Marketing

You can't make money on an app that no one downloads. Therefore, you must be well aware of your potential market. Be prepared to ask questions about your target audience, such as what their interests are and what prompts them to download an app. Consider things like whether there are similar apps out there, how much they dominate the market, and how yours is better.

Once you know who you're trying to reach and how your app is positioned in the marketplace, you'll need to think about how you plan to make potential customers aware of your app. Will you place ads in other apps? Online? If so, which sites do these potential customers visit most often? If you're not sure, how will you find out? Will you have a website? If so, how will you attract potential customers to it?

No matter how great your app is, it won't make money if you're not able to find people willing to use it.

Before you begin to develop your app, you must think about your market and marketing strategy, which are key to generating app income.

Business Considerations

Your business model will make a difference in whether you make money and, if so, how much. You'll need to make decisions about things like whether you'll have customers pay for your app, rely on ad revenue, or a combination (customers can download for free and pay to remove ads)?

Your business model is just one aspect of the business you'll need to create to support the development and sale of your app and serve customers who need help with it. If you're not comfortable with this part of the process, there are companies that can do it for you but they'll charge you for this service, taking a big chunk of any revenue you might generate.

Development

Building an app from scratch requires a thorough understanding of specific devices and operating systems (OS) as well as programming languages, user experience best practices, and user interface design. The situation becomes more complex if you choose to develop for multiple OS (such as iOS and Android), though this approach can also expose you to more potential customers.

User experience (often abbreviated as UX) is the overall experience users have with a product or company. With an app, it might include whether the interface functions as expected, how pleasing it is to look at, and how easy it is to use.

The ability of the developer (you or someone you hire) to understand these factors and create a high-quality product will play a large part in determining whether or not the app can earn a profit. Again, there are companies that can help you with this part of the process but the more you farm out tasks, the less revenue you get to keep.

Support

After the app is available for download, you'll need to ensure there are people available to respond to online reviews and answer user questions. This component of the process is yet another area that requires an investment of time, money, or both. The amount of energy you devote to this effort will cost you but it will also ensure additional sales as people offer better reviews. Often it's not possible to know whether this risk will pay off.

Bottom Line

While there is no standard outlay for app development, it could end up costing you over $25,000 to design, develop, and deploy a good-quality app. The cost would be higher if you hired someone to do the development for you and even more if you decided to deploy across multiple platforms.

All this effort and expenditure is still worth it if you expect a good return on investment (ROI), which you'll want to try your best to estimate before going too far down the app creation path. At the end of the day, you need to carefully consider the areas mentioned here and then decide how lucky you feel.