Forrester has warned businesses to carefully consider the benefits of developing an app before succumbing to “application hype”.

Forrester has warned businesses to carefully consider the benefits of developing an app before succumbing to “application hype”.

Before launching an app, Forrester said that companies need to compare the functionalities offered by mobile websites and apps, and ask themselves which ones they really need. For example, an app has specific capabilities, such as being able to integrate more deeply with a handset’s core functions including GPS and the camera.

Writing in 'The Future of Application Stores' report, Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said that businesses should also be aware that apps only reach a minority of consumers.

“Today, the Apple App Store provides the best application experience. However, only two percent of European and four percent of US consumers report owning an iPhone. Reach is limited in 2010,” he said.

Forrester said that on average, just four percent of European adults with mobile phones report downloading apps at least once a month. Even among smartphone owners in Europe, just 15 percent said they download an app on a monthly basis. In contrast, 64 percent of iPhone users in Europe download apps on a monthly basis.

However, Forrester’s European Technographics Benchmark Survey, Q2 2010, found that 22 percent of smartphone users in the UK download an app to their phone at least monthly – compared to seven percent of all users.

Since apps are sold in stores, Husson reminded businesses to promote and merchandise any new apps by planning a suitable marketing campaign, as they would for a product in a physical store. He also advised businesses to respond appropriately to real-time consumer feedback on a new app, which may include quickly releasing a new version of an app if the initial feedback is negative.

“Consumers will review your app from day one and influence their peers and their social graph. Don’t neglect the viral effect of such reviews.

“Integrating live feedback should be the first step on your mobile application road map,” said Husson.

Forrester also believes that it is still too early for businesses to choose to develop for one particular platform, for example the iPhone or the Google Android.

According to new figures from research firm Canalys, shipments of the Android have increased 886 percent year-on-year from the second quarter of 2009 to 10,689,290 in 2010, but Husson warned: “Bear in mind that shipments do not equal an installed base of reachable consumers.

"The market is still in its infancy, and while there will be consolidation, it is still too early to say who the winners will be. Fragmentation is here for a few more years, so don’t expect to reach all your customers via just one platform."