Back when apps were a new thing (we’re talking hazy, sepia-tinged memories of 2008, here), there was a considerable clamour among brands, games companies, and binmen alike to get in on the app gold rush. However, many marketers and developers argue that the mobile web beats apps when it comes to mobile strategy.
So, do smart marketers want an app or a mobile site? And is the whole argument a colossal red herring?
As with anything to do with making money, the short answer is that it depends on your customers – how they find you, how they interact with you, and what they want from you. But the pace at which consumers have embraced their mobile devices means it’s no longer an either/or question.
The importance of mobile web browsing simply cannot be overstated. More than 20 per cent of Google searches are now performed via mobile, while analysts say the point at which mobile traffic overtakes desktop traffic is just around the corner.
This has two key implications. Firstly, consumers looking for you must be able to find you on mobile. Secondly, when they do find you, it’s essential they like what they see – a pleasing mobile experience will improve your chances of engaging your visitors. Causing a hasty press of the back button is a gift to your competitors.
Aside from discoverability and a presence on Google searches, mobile sites are broadly cheaper to create, in the sense that it’s quicker to develop a site and, unlike apps, they don’t require approval from the curators of app stores. And in terms of reach, your web site will be instantly accessible to all smartphone owners, whereas you’ll need to develop an app for each mobile OS.
The challenge with apps is being noticed, downloaded and used. However, a strategically conceived app can reap massive rewards when it comes to building relationships with your customers.
There’s also the argument that people actually spend more time on apps than they do on the mobile web, and that consumers see browsers as just another app. This makes it even more vital that your app stands out and earns a place on the home screens of consumers.
Apps that offer a utility stand the best chance, and garnering repeat usage allows marketers to harvest data and keep close to their customers. Native apps can also offer functionality that the mobile web still can’t get close to – such as push notifications and access to device features such as GPS and social contacts lists.
So, a smart mobile marketing strategy will ultimately take in both mobile web and branded apps. How you prioritise will depend on the needs of your customers. Being searchable and easy to use on the mobile web is essential in modern business, but an app will take your consumer engagement further – provided your idea actually has something to offer.
The key is to get your mobile strategy up and running – and then test, track, and optimise your results.
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