According to research done by Gartner, more than half of all users are using their mobile device first to kickstart their buying journey. Mobile is no longer the future but rather the norm in 2018. And to get ahead of the pack, optimising for customer experience is the top priority for over 13000 marketers that were surveyed by Adobe in 2018. That means you not only have to get in front of the user but also give them the best experience whilst they are engaging with your brand.
Which leads to the question, should you create a mobile application or a mobile website?
I’m going to share with you the difference between them, the pros and cons of each one of them and a few tips to self-analyse your situation and determine which would better suit you.
What is a Mobile Application?
A mobile application is a computer program built specifically to run on a smartphone, tablet or any other smart device. *key point* users can access them directly.
They are usually downloaded from the different app stores (iTunes, Google Play etc.) and they run on the phone, downloading and uploading data to and from the internet, with some having the capability to run offline without the internet.
Therefore if you develop a mobile application you would have to submit it to the app store, once its approved, your customers can then find and use it directly on their phones.
What is a Mobile Website?
A mobile website on the other site is simply a website viewed in the smartphones device by typing in the URL of the website.
Before smartphones were popular, websites were mostly viewed on desktops and were never built to be responsive according to the size of the device.
Currently, any good web development company should be able to build your website with mobile optimisation in mind.
What are the pros of having a mobile application
1. Increased brand loyalty
Mobile applications once downloaded on the customer’s phone, enable you the ability to send out push notifications (100% of Android users are automatically opted-in to receive push notifications when they download your app and 43% of iOS users consent to receiving them)
The mobile app allows you to have a pool of customers that have committed to engage with your brand by downloading the app and will engage with your push notifications. This, in turn, increases your brand loyalty and increases your chances of remaining top of mind when they think about your products and services.
2. Mobile Checkout
According to data from the NPD group, the number of mobile orders in the US shot up to 50% in 2017. Starbucks led the pile with one out of three customers coming from their robust mobile order and pay system after they surpassed 70 million transactions on mobile in 2016.
A mobile application can make it more convenient for customers to seamlessly place orders through their phones using Apple Pay, Paypal, credit card and the like, you automatically have a shot at increasing your revenue and reducing the workload on your sales force.
3. Personalised advertising
You can track the engagement of the customers with your application and send them personalized targeted push notifications that could include rewards, discounts, to further have them engage with your application.
Mobile applications can allow the user to customize their experience when setting up the app, feeding you with information that you can then use to send them loyalty rewards and adverts that are most relevant to them. I.e based on their demographics, age, location etc.
The application can also track their engagement whilst in the app, allowing you to market to them based on their activity within the application. For example for an e-commerce retailer, you can send them a notification to complete their checkout process if they did not complete it a few hours later.
4. Control over your brand engagement
Once customers have downloaded your mobile application, all they see is your products catalogue compared to when they search for your product on google and they are presented with several alternatives from your competitors.
With a mobile app, you are in full control over who sees your content, what they see and when they are able to see it.
It is it your own direct marketing channel independent of any other third party platforms like Facebook, google etc.
5. Take advantage of device’s inbuilt features
By taking advantage of devices inbuilt features, you can increase the effectiveness of your marketing. For example, geo-targeted ads that use the device’s GPS to send your customers push notifications based on the location they are in.
For example, a mobile device can be used as a contactless card to pay for public transport tickets or using the device’s camera to scan a barcode or QR code to enhance the customer’s.
Features like to tap to call or email can increase the conversion rates of your marketing efforts s it’s easier for customers to contact you.
6. Apps can work offline.
Mobile apps are downloaded onto a device and content can be downloaded and stored on the device offline and updated when the device comes back online.
For example, users can see basic information such as your location, contact information, about you without necessarily having an internet connection.
I’ve personally used a real estate application to engage with the realtor, view the pictures that were already downloaded within the app while I had lost my internet connection. Just this ability alone paid that realtor handsomely. Whereas with mobile websites, they would only engage with your brand when they’re back online.
Image : Business Mobile App
What are the pros of having a mobile website?
1. Mobile websites are easier accessed.
Users are tasked to download a mobile app to engage with your brand where they can easily go onto any device, open the browser and engage with your brand’s mobile website on any other smart device.
2. Compatibility across several platforms
A mobile website is easily compatible across multiple devices, whereas native apps are built specifically for that device.
Although you can ask your mobile app developer to build a cross-platform mobile app that will be compatible across several devices.
3. Mobile websites can be easily upgraded
Once you upgrade the entire mobile application, users have to then redownload the new update from the app store (although in most cases this is automatic) whereas with a mobile website, once the content is published, it can immediately be accessed by your customers.
If you have a content management system for the mobile application, you will be able to update the content within the mobile application without having users to re-download a new update.
4. Ease in sharing the URL of mobile website
Although you can build in-app sharing capability to allow users to easily share your app with each other. It is generally easier to copy and paste a URL, therefore, allowing your customers to easily fuel that word of mouth.
5. Mobile-optimised websites tend to rank higher than their desktop version counterparts.
Google adopted a mobile-first strategy that saw them ranking websites that are mobile-friendly higher than their competitors.
Therefore, with a great mobile optimised website, you stand a chance of getting more organic search traffic.
Image : Benefits of Mobile Website
Mobile website or mobile app, which one should you choose.
Generally speaking; if you are interested in deeper customer engagement with your brand, an application should always be your first choice.
And that includes:
- A lot of personalisation where you need to collect the user’s information and regular engagement with the application
- Offline capability
- Usage of the device’s hardware to enhance the customer experience.
And if all you are after is to display information to your users, and spread it out to as many eyeballs as possible then you should opt for a mobile responsive website, although having both would definitely make more logical sense.