Apps Vs. Mobile Sites: Which Is Best for Your Business?
If you’re a small business owner looking to develop your mobile marketing strategy, you might be wondering whether to engage the services of an app developer or optimize your website for mobile users. Both have distinct advantages depending on industry, audience and budget. The problem is, there’s so much conflicting advice out there, with vociferous arguments made for both sides of the apps vs mobile sites debate, it can be tough to know which route to take.
A 2013 Compuware survey found that 85% of consumers prefer apps to mobile websites. That’s a bit like saying diners prefer a steak to a burger. Sure, it’s more exclusive and tastier, but it’s also more expensive and not appropriate for every occasion. The proliferation of burger chains should tell you all you need to know: just because something’s ‘preferable’ doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge market for the alternative.
Deciding whether to opt for a mobile app or mobile friendly website depends on what mobile marketing tactics you plan to use, and how these feed into the rest of your strategy. Let’s hear the case for apps first:
The principal advantage of having your own mobile app is the ability to embrace the hardware and native functionality of the phone or tablet. Gyroscopes, GPS, speedometers, cameras - all these incredibly useful bits of technology are included in most modern mobile devices, and can be incorporated into the operation of your app.
Plus, apps don’t necessarily require an internet connection to run. Many apps are capable of storing data locally on the phone’s hard drive, enabling users to continue interacting with the app even when not connected to the web. Some news sites, for instance, will download all current content when there is a wifi connection, effectively storing that day’s events onto mobile devices. This content is what users will see until the app is able to reconnect.
Because of the high demand for developers, the available infrastructure and development tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly. The major operating systems offer a huge selection of frameworks - often free to use - for developers to get started.
It’s easier than it used to be to get your own app - but it’s still prohibitively expensive for many small businesses. The maintenance and development costs go up with every platform you want your app to work on. With a mobile-optimized website, there is only one version of the content you need to maintain. This makes managing your mobile marketing strategy a lot easier.
Your ultimate goal is to drive more traffic. In some cases, a mobile site will do this more effectively than an app. Think about whether you want to use mobile to open up new revenue streams or improve loyalty initiatives. Depending on your objectives, a cross-channel site may be more appropriate for you mobile marketing strategy.