It’s evident that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they need to embrace a mobile strategy. Not only has the number of mobile-only internet users overtaken desktop-only, but app usage has also surpassed desktop usage. As a result of this shift, companies are re-thinking their mobile strategies. The major question that they have been grappling with however, is whether a mobile app or a mobile website is the right way to go.
Many argue that you don’t need a mobile app, you just need a website that looks good on mobile devices. Others say that mobile apps have benefits that a website cannot provide. However, when digging a little deeper, there are a myriad of factors that need to be considered before deciding. When it comes to different mobile mediums, it can be difficult to determine where to focus your efforts. We break down the pros and cons of each choice so you can align a mobile strategy that suits your business objectives.
Mobile App Vs. Mobile Web: The Stats
An App Annie report reveals that in 2015 alone, the mobile app industry generated $41.1 billion in gross income revenue. This figure may increase up to $50.9 billion, and by 2020, it will be worth $189 billion.
Despite the slowing of global smartphone growth highlighted in Mary Meeker’s annual address, there have been no signs of slowing for the mobile app development industry. With consumers demanding more and more from their apps, Gartner predicts that “over 268 billion mobile downloads will generate an income of $77 billion in 2017”.
Desktop usage isn’t going away anytime soon, however, mobile is surpassing it exponentially. Just two years ago in 2015, time spent on mobile surpassed time spent on desktop. Google even reported that more searches were being made on mobile than desktop.
Consumer time spent is increasing on mobile while time spent with all other media is decreasing, according to a study by eMarketer.
From 2016 to 2017, time spent per day on mobile has increased by approximately seven minutes, reaching a total 3 hours and 15 minutes per day. Whats even more surprising is that time spent on desktop decreased by one minute and TV viewing decreased by five minutes. Simply put, if companies aren’t aware of where their customers are spending most of their time, they’ll lose.
Mobile App Vs. Mobile Web: What’s The Difference?
Both apps and mobile websites are accessed via a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. A mobile website is exactly as it sounds. It’s a website that consists of browser-based HTML pages that are linked together. Responsive websites are designed for different platforms and adjust to different screen sizes and layouts. Responsive websites are becoming increasingly standard.
Like traditional websites, mobile websites can display text content, data, images, and video. They can also access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call or location-based mapping. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are applications that are downloaded and installed on a user’s mobile device. An app can pull content and data from the Internet, similar to a website, or it can download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection. We’ll dive into the pros and cons for each so you can make a more informed decision when establishing the smartest mobile strategy for your brand.
Mobile App Pros
A native mobile app is an app that is developed for a particular platform, for example, iOS or Android, and are installed on the device itself. A native app is written in the language of the operating system of the device. Apps are a completely separate entity from a company’s websit, and are often an extension of a brand.
Since a mobile app is an entirely separate entity from a company’s website, it has the ability to offer new branding opportunities to users. This means that companies can experiment with new branding tactics and styles with a mobile app. It’s important to note that a mobile app offers a completely different experience for the user. If your website can’t offer enough value for your customers, a mobile app may be the way to go as it offers users with another channel for engagement.
Personalization is about offering tailored communication to users based on their interests, location, usage behavior, and more. With mobile apps, it’s easy to offer users a personalized experience. Mobile apps can let users set up their preferences when they have originally downloaded the app, and customize it to suit their needs. Apps can also track user engagement, and use it to offer custom recommendations and updates to the users. Furthermore, mobile apps can also identify the location of the users to provide geography-specific content such as special promotions or deals at a particular store location.
Leverage Device Capabilities
A native app can interface with the device’s features and hardware, such as the camera, GPS location, and so on.
Having access to the device’s capabilities is particularly important for retail apps as they significantly enhance the customer experience. If there’s a single truth to shopping, it’s that the customer experience matters. A Cisco survey reinforces this, suggesting that context and hyper-relevance is a key way to win over digital consumers. A mobile app is, therefore, the ultimate way to improve the customer experience, acting as an extension of a retailer’s brand and offering features that aren’t possible anywhere else. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
- Push notifications
- Device vibration/ alerts
- Instant and automatic updates
Mobile websites, in contrast, are very limited when it comes to accessing a device’s features. Mobile websites can use some features of a mobile device like the camera, GPS, etc. However, there are many technological constraints in utilizing them.
Mobile apps can run without internet connection. Although many apps require internet connectivity to perform most of their tasks, they can still offer content and functionality to users while in offline mode. With this advantage, users can access information anytime, anywhere.
Mobile apps run with their own interface environment which enables users to become more immersed in the mobile experience. They are built with a purpose, for example, more convenient banking. They address user pain points and make it easier for users to achieve a goal.
Additionally, mobile apps allow for more interactive ways for the user to engage with your content. Rather than looking at the exact same text and images as a website, apps can integrate features which allow users to interact with certain components of the app. Finally, if a mobile app delivers a great deal of value to a user, they will return frequently, forming a habit. These factors all contribute to greater customer engagement, in turn, boosting conversion rates.
The other major advantage mobile apps have over mobile websites is that your brand is given real estate on your customer’s device. Even when users are not actively using a mobile app, they are still reminded of the brand associated with the app. The icon of the app acts as an advertisement for the brand. This presents a huge opportunity for hyper-targeted marketing and a level of customer engagement that can’t be matched on any other channel.
Mobile apps are built with the mobile experience in mind, rather than being redesigned from a website. Consumers are now expecting a seamless experience across platforms and greater brand consistency. In fact, approximately 83% of mobile users say that a seamless experience is very important.
Mobile Website Pros
As mentioned earlier, a mobile website is a website that has a responsive design and works for different screen sizes. Essentially, it’s a customized version of a regular website that is used specifically for mobile. Here are the benefits of a mobile website:
Broader Audience Reach
Because a mobile website is accessible across platforms and can be easily shared. Secondly, in terms of search engines, it has greater reach capability than a mobile app which has to be searched and downloaded in either Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
Depending on complexity, a responsive mobile site can be more cost-effective than mobile app development. This holds true if you want your app to have a presence on more than one platform.
SEO & Brand Visibility
Mobile optimized sites are now ranked higher in search engine results pages than sites that are not optimized for mobile. Companies with mobile-friendly sites are more likely to rank better, which results in greater brand visibility and higher website traffic.
Mobile websites may be a less expensive option, however, they are very limited when it comes to personalization and engagement. Additionally, websites simply can’t be as tightly integrated with the user’s device, so they can’t leverage the phone’s other capabilities as easily.
It’s also important to note that mobile website design relies on the networks being used to access it. The network access, quality, and speed are all factors that will impact your mobile web experience, if a wifi network is even available.
Mobile websites are also more difficult for a user to navigate since they’re on a much smaller screen than desktop. This means that you should have fewer steps for the user to take. If you don’t simplify the user journey, users can get frustrated and will abandon the site altogether. This will not only lower conversion rates, but can also damage your brand image. Make sure to optimize your site’s functionality on mobile devices, ensuring that the user journey is simple and straightforward.
Which Is The Better Option?
When it comes to deciding whether to build a mobile app or a mobile website, the right choice simply depends on your business objectives. If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of people, then a mobile website is probably the way to go. However, if you want to better engage, interact with, and communicate with your customers to drive customer loyalty, a mobile app is an excellent choice. In many cases, you may decide you need both a mobile website and a mobile app. If done correctly, both can be a strategic and valuable choice. So when it comes to your brand’s mobile strategy, it’s not a question of a mobile website or a mobile, but perhaps a two-pronged approach.
Mobile App Pros:
- Better performance
- Better user experience
- Leverage device capabilities
- Offline access
- Customer Engagement
- Brand Awareness
Mobile Website Pros:
- Audience reach
- SEO and brand visibility
Read more: One Big Lesson Learned from Mobile