If you’re thinking about developing a mobile presence for your business, the question of whether or not you should develop a smart phone app or mobile website (or both) is probably at the forefront of your mind. In fact, when it comes to mobile, this is one the most frequently asked questions. In this post we’ll break down the difference between mobile apps and mobile sites and look at how they can offer different solutions to different businesses.
Functionality: The biggest benefit of apps over mobile websites is that they offer a much more feature-filled platform to engage your customers. From push-notifications to homescreen widgets, users can spend more time engaged with your brand via an app than they typically will on a mobile site.
Feature rich: Unlike mobile websites, apps are native to devices, meaning they can take advantage of all that processing power available in modern smartphones. Native apps also can leverage camera features, GPS, and contacts. So if you want to give your customers a rich, multimedia, and integrated experience then an app is the best way forward.
Offline functionality: To access a mobile website users will need a data connection, which isn’t always available when they’re on the move. Apps can be accessed offline and can pre-load data, allowing customers to explore your brand or services wherever they are.
Stickiness: Because of the above functionality, apps are much more more likely to generate loyal mobile users than websites, plus you have more ways to reach out to them.
Better visibility: Although ’discoverability’ is becoming an ever increasing problem for app stores, an app will generally give you more ways to promote your mobile presence to customers. This can be as simple as your brand being searchable in the app store, all the way to using app promotion networks to generate downloads.
Cross-platform: Unlike apps, which are restricted to their respective operating systems (iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS et al), mobile websites can be accessed with any smartphone web-browser and therefore have much bigger potential reach.
Cost-effective: Having a mobile-optimised presence is essential. But if you’re a small business that wants to keep things simple – such as a basic mobile-optimised webpage describing services – then a mobile website is a generally more cost-effective route than an app.
Mobile search: Search queries from mobile devices account for a whopping 15% of all of Google’s searches (expected to rise to 25% by end of 2012) and 20% of Yahoo’s. Those numbers will keep rising in step with smartphone penetration. It’s therefore very important that your business has a mobile optimised site that users can navigate on a touch screen.
Paid-search: If you want to run a mobile PPC campaign then you will need a properly optimised mobile landing page to link to. By the end of 2012 its forecast that mobile will contribute 25% to total paid search ad clicks.
What’s best for your business?
In most cases developing a mobile website is always recommended, as so many smartphone users are browsing via mobile and you shouldn’t expect your website to be navigable on a 3.5 inch screen. Apps are a bit more tricky, but you’ve generally got two options: an app that expands your service to mobile users, or an app that’s primarily a marketing tool. Obviously the former needs to compliment your business’ goals, but the latter can be
deployed by any business and is a great way to reach out to new customers, especially among a younger demographic, as well as a great way to gather valuable marketing data.