Improving the Customer Experience: Mobile Web or Mobile App?

How often have you found yourself frustrated by a web site that seems oblivious to the world of mobile shoppers, forcing you to peer at a postage-size patch of an online store designed for full-screen browsers?

Retailers know they need to improve the customer experience for mobile shoppers but there is a hot debate raging over the best approach to ecommerce.

Is mobile web or mobile app the right way to go? What’s the best alternative for improving the mobile experience and growing greater customer engagement and loyalty?

The Mobile Web Approach

Mobile Web or Mobile App? The Answer Might Surprise You!Web sites optimized for mobile devices provide shoppers with a familiar browser experience that gives them the freedom to easily compare products and prices.

With responsive design, customers can begin their buying journey on one device and continue on another without disruption. If well-optimized, the result is a seamless experience that takes the friction out of researching and buying online.

Mobile web sites also have a cost advantage for the retailer. In general it requires less investment to establish a mobile web presence than to develop and distribute a mobile app. There are also fewer worries about updating the app to stay in sync with constantly changing device specs and operating systems.

The Mobile App Approach

Mobile Web Or Mobile App? The Answer Might Surprise You!Mobile apps of all types have exploded in popularity over the past few years.

In their rush to jump onboard this trend, some retailers have launched immature apps that turned out to be one-trick ponies, offering meager features in return for personal information, demanding everything from your birth date to your shoe size.

But a well-designed native app has the advantage of being able to access the advanced functions of today’s smartphones and tablets, although it can be more costly to develop, distribute and maintain.

The mobile app allows for greater personalization and may incorporate features that take advantage of the device’s camera, GPS, motion sensor, WAN connectivity and data storage capability. Greater personalization also means greater insight into customer habits and preferences, enabling retail marketers to deliver personalized offers to the shopper at the point of decision, whether they are in-store or online.

It’s About the Customer, Not The Technology

Although the newest device features offer fascinating possibilities for native app design, choosing the best approach isn’t a matter of technology – it’s about the customer and what best suits their needs.

Mobile Web Or Mobile App? The Answer Might Surprise You!If you ask your customers which approach they prefer, the answer might surprise you! Recent research has shown that shopper preferences change in the course of the buyer’s journey.

Early stage buyers tend to favor mobile web for search and comparison shopping. As their engagement with a brand grows, they are more likely to download a mobile app with enhanced personalization features to complement their mobile web experience.

Major brands have found that best solution is not an either-or choice of mobile web vs. mobile app – it’s about offering customers multiple options, giving them the flexibility and the convenience that each approach affords.

In the end, it comes down to what best meets customer needs. Give them a fair deal and the flexibility to choose their preferred shopping experience at any point on the buyer’s journey — it’s the basis for building a relationship of trust that leads to lasting customer loyalty.

To learn more about how to use mobile to engage customers and build loyalty – download the Mobile Commerce Guide (registration required.)