Considering that they have only been in the mainstream for a relatively short period of time, apps are already proving indispensable to businesses. From providing time-sensitive information to customers, to subtly cultivating brand loyalty straight from the small screen, mobile apps have been among the leading drivers of brand loyalty for businesses large and small in the last five years.

Forbes Insights and Adobe recently surveyed business executives and found that, for companies with revenues of $250,000 or more a year, customer apps were being used for a wide variety of reasons. 83% of companies said that mobile apps were an excellent way to communicate with customers, followed by customer service and support, product information, ease of transactions and, finally, brand engagement.

By allowing customers direct access to product information as well as highly increased customer service, apps are being used more and more in the purchase path. They’re also boosting engagement with customers after the transaction. Indeed, nearly 32% of the survey respondents pointed to mobile apps as an excellent tool to build lasting customer relationships.

As far as creating early awareness at the “consideration stage” of purchasing, nearly 20% responded that apps offer an excellent tool for this as well.

Of course, getting a decent ROI out of a mobile app means investing in mobile app resources wisely. Not only do mobile apps face stiff and growing competition, there are thousands of other distractions that mobile devices offer. One rather significant drawback is that, for smartphones especially, smaller screen sizes make web browsing difficult. Over 50% of business owners that were polled chose designing a user-friendly interface as one of the biggest challenges that mobile apps face in the near future.

One of the most interesting results of the survey, however, was simply that when it came to costs and ROI, executives felt that these were the least important concerns with regard to mobile apps.