Do all businesses need a mobile app?

It makes sense for businesses to have an app. After all, what business wouldn’t want to be literally in their customers’ pockets at all times? It’s pretty much the best connection a business can have to their clients.

But sometimes, I wonder if businesses think about their audiences before they put in the time, money and energy into building an app. After all, you’d only make an app if your clientele is likely to use apps, right?

Which is why I question the utility of companies like Home Depot and Air Miles building apps. I don’t know too many 40-and-over contractors (Home Depot’s prime demographic) or soccer moms (Air Miles prime demographic) who have smartphones. So how useful could these apps really be for a business?

They seem useful enough for the consumers who do use them; the Home Depot one has a catalogue of in-store availability of products, prices, locations and contact information; and the Air Miles one shows where Air Miles-affiliated stores are, a collector’s account balance and even a location-based marketing feature, that gives you Air Miles when you “check in,” a la Foursquare, at a participating store.

But what kind of Air Miles collectors want to play Foursquare? Foursquare is generally the pursuit of 20-something males — not exactly who Air Miles had in mind for their services, I’m guessing. And the Home Depot app is iPhone only. How much sense does this make? The tradesmen I know are generally in the BlackBerry crowd, since they use their phone for business.

Perhaps Home Depot and Air Miles have run the numbers and figure that the costs of developing an app are outweighed by the benefits, or maybe they predict an explosion of smartphone adoption by their target demographics. But if that’s not the case, it’s just a waste of marketing capital better spent elsewhere.