The E-Commerce Column

Mobile Site or Mobile App? Which is Right for Your Business?

Hotcakes Commerce talks Mobile

It’s no secret that mobile is taking the web by storm. Every day, people log in to a variety of mobile apps and responsive websites to do everything from order food to check stocks and attend events. But many businesses are torn – should you invest in a mobile responsive site, or have an app developed? Both have their pros and cons and ultimately, knowing the benefits and downsides of each will help you be able to more confidently decide which is right for you. Let’s take a closer look:

According to a study done in December 2014 by the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), 88% of mobile users’ time was spent in apps, compared to 12% browsing the web. Now before you dump all your money into having an app developed due to these big numbers alone – keep in mind that app usage, as the study found, can be intricately tied directly to mobile web access. For example, 52% of respondents reported tapping open links on their mobile app which then opened their browser for further reading. So you ultimately have a mix of both, even though the numbers skew differently.

Apps Versus Mobile Web – Benefits and Downsides

So why do users prefer apps? The study delves into some interesting findings:

Convenience, Ease of Use Rule for Consumers Who Prefer Apps to Mobile Web

First and foremost are convenience and ease of use. An app gives you one-touch access to a variety of common features found on your website, but in a more “bite size” interface. But there are downsides as well – particularly cost, as the study demonstrates:

Perceived Cost of Apps, Ease of Use, Motivate Those Who Prefer Web to Apps

Another key finding was that some people simply prefer using a web browser, even if an app offers them more features. There’s also a good chunk of disappointment in apps, as well as issues with phone space. For many users, the mobile web circumvents all these problems.

For your customers, having a free app that meets all their expectations means ensuring your app is properly tested, both by the developers as well as the audience that will use it. Sites like are a good starting point to define your audience and get them to test your app while relating the features they find troublesome to use or difficult to navigate.

Specific Industries See Better Results

Depending on the industry you’re in, your time may be better spent investing in app development as opposed to the mobile web. For search, mobile web makes up almost half of the respondents preference, whereas shopping, news and local directories are mostly split between web and app. Other specific uses, such as short videos and banking are vastly preferred as apps. For instance, if you do business mainly in the shopping and online retail area, having a branded app can help you build customer loyalty while letting them connect with the things they love.

Consumers Show Balanced App/Web Preferences for Some Content/Activity Types

What’s more, many people browse the mobile web from inside their apps – particularly news, social and shopping, further blurring the lines between preferences. This makes it hard to pin down a “this or that?” preference between apps and mobile websites.

The Bottom Line: Make Allowances for Both Types of Access

Regardless of the type of access they prefer, most people involved in the study used either search or social as their gateway to content. All users value how easy and convenient it is to use an app or navigate the web, so those considerations should be the foremost points that govern your decisions.

And it’s important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” with regard to mobile web or app. You should carefully consider the core needs of your consumer and how you can use either the mobile web or apps (or both) to meet those needs and, at the same time, exceed their expectations. Both platforms should be seen as vehicles to help you reach your ultimate destination (satisfied, loyal customers), rather than alienating one group or the other.

Making allowances for both types of media, while gauging precisely how your customers interact with them and use them should be a crucial point of your marketing campaign – allowing you to easily reach your goals, build your business and embrace users no matter which method they prefer.

About the Author

Will StrohlWill Strohl

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