Building and launching a mobile app is just the beginning. If you want the hard work to keep on giving, you need to invest in app maintenance. In fact, ongoing upkeep and improvement are often more critical to your app's success than the initial development effort. Here's why you should prioritize app maintenance and how much you should budget for it.
The Importance of App Maintenance
First thing first...why should you invest in app maintenance? Here are some good reasons:
Keep Your App Current
Smartphone manufacturers update their devices and technologies regularly. Ongoing maintenance ensures that your app stays compatible with most hardware to avoid glitches, user experience (UX) problems, and security issues.
Incorporate User Feedback
No matter how good your initial app is, you'll get a slew of user feedback after launch. Having a maintenance budget allows you to address the input and update your app so you can invest in building features users want.
Addressing issues and customer feedback can help you increase retention rates and prevent users from deleting your app because it's frustrating to use or no longer relevant to them.
Improve User Experience
You can make upgrades based on changes in consumer behaviors and expectations while utilizing features available on the latest operating systems and hardware to deliver a modern, relevant, and converting UX.
App maintenance addresses security concerns while ensuring that your app is compatible with the latest technology. Taking proper precautions can help you prevent downtime, frustrating customer experience, and revenue loss.
Increase Brand Loyalty
Keeping your app's UX and content up-to-date helps your brand stay top of mind and keeps users coming back. Also, when you deliver a relevant experience, people will more likely tell others about your app to drive download.
How Much Does App Maintenance Cost?
The rule of thumb is to budget 15% to 20% of the initial development cost for maintenance each year. Here's where you should be spending your money and how much you should expect to set aside:
An app hosting server may cost anywhere from $70 to $320 per month, depending on the type of content, the number of active users, projected usage, etc. Text-based or static content is typically cheaper to host, while audio, video, or a large amount of data can increase your expenses. You may also explore cloud-based hosting with services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS)—you only pay for the capacity you use while spending less on hardware maintenance.
Understanding metrics such as traffic sources, user behaviors, and app usage time can give you insights into user preferences and identify growth opportunities. Meanwhile, monitoring and analyzing bugs, crashes, and other disruptions help avoid frustrating user experience or costly downtime. You can use various free tools to get started, but you may need to purchase advanced software to gain granular insights. Plus, don't forget the labor cost involved in the process!
Updates and Bug Fixes
You must ensure that your app's functionalities are up-to-date and the UX is bug-free to keep users coming back and posting great reviews. While a simple bug that involves adjusting one line of code may cost $50, a substantial update that requires a couple of weeks' worth of work can set you back thousands. Your overall app maintenance cost will depend on the size of your app and the complexity of the potential updates.
Whether it's a sales-related question or a ticket about the app's functionality, you must respond promptly to users' inquiries to increase conversions and get stellar ratings. An engineer here and a marketing person there may be sufficient to handle them when your user base is small, but as the app scales up, you'll need to hire dedicated customer service resources. The more feature-rich the app is, the more support tickets or inquiries you should expect and budget accordingly.
More brands are including community features in their mobile apps where users can create groups and interact with each other. To support this user engagement strategy, include community management in your app maintenance budget to ensure a safe and on-brand experience. You can also use a combination of chatbots and human agents to conduct proactive outreach (e.g., an in-app message to offer help when users are browsing a product) to augment the customer experience.
Third-party integrations allow you to license technologies for a fee instead of reinventing the wheel to shorten the development timeline while reducing the number of functionalities you have to maintain and update. But of course, you have to pay the subscription fee to keep the functionalities in your app, so don't forget to include this expense in your app maintenance budget.
An effective marketing strategy helps ensure your app's longevity and long-term ROI by reaching new users and increasing retention rates. Promoting your app on various marketing channels requires resources for content creation, SEO, paid ads, etc. Meanwhile, you must set aside a budget for communicating with existing users (e.g., about new features, updates to data privacy, etc.) to ensure that current customers will keep using your app.
How To Control Your App Maintenance Costs
Even if you aren't stingy with your budget, runway maintenance costs suck. After all, who doesn't want to be smart about their spending and allocate resources to things that matter? Here are some tips to help you get a handle on your app maintenance expenses:
- Choose the right development platform: Platform-specific native apps usually run faster and allow developers to create unique features, but you need to maintain one codebase for each platform (i.e., iOs, Android, Windows, etc.) For most apps, using a hybrid platform can save time and money because you only need to manage one codebase.
- Start with a minimum viable product (MVP): Instead of spending a fortune on building the mother of all apps, create a basic version to demonstrate your unique value proposition. Then, gather user feedback to decide what upgrades to make so you can spend your maintenance budget on features that people want.
- Stay current with app development trends and market demands: Follow the latest trends and use new technologies to keep your app relevant. Staying on top of market demands isn't just about adding new features—it can also help you decide if you should stop supporting certain functionalities and shift your budget to what matters.
- Don't slack on monitoring: Tracking every little thing may seem tedious, but keeping a close eye on your app's metrics and analytics can help you catch issues early on—which could mean the difference between spending a few hundred instead of thousands (or more) on fixing the problem while avoiding unnecessary frustrations and downtime.
App maintenance should be part of your mobile app strategy from the get-go. Working with a trusted partner with extensive experience in the app development process plus ongoing maintenance and audience & revenue strategy can help you achieve more control and visibility over your spending. Get in touch to see how we can help you balance all the moving parts.
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