Truth of the matter is that in today techsavvy world, where commerce, entertainment and lives can be played out in the palm of a hand, a company’s mobile strategy can make or break them. Hard figures show that mobile commerce is outpacing desktop commerce at an exponential rate. Google has released data indicating that these days’ consumers tend to run searches on their mobile devices rather than their desktops.
Just step back for a minute to truly grasp this concept. People are using their mobile devices more than their desktop. And, this is in an age where people are spending more and more time being sedentary, and sitting down in front of their desktop or laptop all day.
Now as a business owner you will definitely want to jump on this bandwagon lest you get run over by it. Remember that this behavior was not forced on the consumer. Rather it was the consumer that has forced entire industries to adapt to their mobile needs. But, at this point the business owner faces a fork in the mobile engagement road. If I want my costumers to purchase my products or hire my services, should I go with a mobile website or a mobile app? It’s the milliondollar question, and for some companies this statement is actually pretty accurate.
Before committing to an answer and shelling out the money, it would be best to first take a look at the company. Is it a startup that runs lean and mean? Or is it a big company with dozens or even hundreds of employees? What does its budget look like? Is it limited to launching a single solution or can it run with iOS and Android? All of these are valid and important questions, and need to be answered with great detail before even considering which developer to go with or which features to integrate.
For the majority of small and medium businesses, budget plays a massive role in deciding which path to take. While apps have skyrocketed in popularity and adoption, the fact that a company would have to develop an app for iOS, Android and Windows means that a significant amount of resources must be committed to launch the app on multiple platforms. Mobile webs however require less money, much less. They may not have the organic and native feel of apps but mobile websites need only to be developed once regardless of how many platforms it will be seen on.
This opens up the debate on which solution is the better solution. Needless to say, both mobile webs and mobile apps have their pros and cons. The relationship between budget and the number of platforms is only one such example. We take a closer look at the highs and lows of each.
Pro – It is considered more robust and customers have access to so much more information than a simple app. Mobile websites are more convenient in terms of having all the data and resources a customer needs to make the decision to make a purchase.
Con – Unfortunately, customers tend to treat the plethora of information as a catalogue of sorts, which results in higher bounce rates.
Pro – A mobile website is simply launched and exists, which is excellent for customer discovery. No muss, no fuss, no installs needed and no extra added steps to reach the customer.
Con – The formal feeling of a website leaves much to be desired and makes it difficult to retain customers.
Pro – Customer spend is 100% greater when on websites. A high trust factor and ingrained purchasing behavior means that customers are not only comfortable making purchases on websites, but they prefer it that way (for now at least).
Con – Websites are not great at engaging new customers, not even established ones. Being as robust as it is, it becomes increasingly difficult to play an active role in developing and deploying sales pivots. As such mobile websites are highly reliant on passive sales.
Pro – The intimate feel of an app leads to higher customer retention and building brand loyalty. Apps give businesses the ability to interact with their clients, to hear their likes, dislikes, their needs and wants, and to react accordingly. A very powerful ability.
Con – Requires intensive marketing for the customer to discover the app, then the customer still needs to install it. The hurdles that a customer must overcome to merely use the app may deter them from further using it and may even leave a sour taste in their mouth.
Pro – Gives the business greater control over sales activity due to the ability to quickly pivot using iterations and updates. This means that revenue generating strategies can be quickly implemented, tested and tweaked as necessary.
Con – The inapp purchasing experience has yet to fully mature in the minds of consumers resulting in low conversion numbers. App developers have a hard enough time getting people to purchase a 99 cent app, let alone spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars within the app itself. Its time will come just like purchasing through websites, it’s just not here yet.
Pro – Customers are more focused when viewing products and services through an app, and are considered highly engaged. An engaged customer is more likely to use the app, champion the app, share the app and, ideally, make inapp purchases.
Con – The amount of information that the customer has access is limited and usually pertains to only a small subset of the entire business. There is only so much real estate on an app’s screen, and not all information or products can be presented. The same goes for the amount of data and information that can be crammed into the app itself.
With such a difference in offerings you may be asking, Will this duality always exist? Will we always have to face this choice? Will our clients always have to face this? The answer is both yes and no. Before hands are thrown up in frustration, remember that mobile ecommerce has been around for less than a decade, and while its growth has been exponential, it is still in its infancy.
In the foreseeable future this duality will still exist. Mobile websites and mobile apps will still compete for customers’ attention and money. Certain companies and institutions have found a happy medium and are using each to engage their audience or consumers in different ways. Their mobile websites can be thought of as their repository for information and acts as a point of sale. They then use their mobile app to generate leads, interact with the customer and build brand loyalty.
The future will see the duality converge into one. As technology surrounding mobile app development evolves so too will the capabilities of the apps themselves. Mobile websites will be integrated into these morerobust apps. Consumer behavior is bound to change as well. In-app spending habits will increase and inhibition to engage in app ecommerce will decrease. Apps like Amazon already exist in which its sole purpose is to drive sales through the app.
Expect more of these apps to be born and don’t be surprised if an app is developed in which the entire sale or purchase of a home is done entirely within the app, including payment.
Also read or watch our video interview with Bruce Lawson from Opera, to know more about progessive apps, maybe the next big thing in mobile app development.