Mobile App Vs Mobile Web

There are currently around 4.8 billion mobile phone users around the world. By 2019, that number is projected to grow to over 5.07 billion. With mobile device usage increasing at hyper-speed, it is more important than ever for companies to be optimized for mobile.

When smartphones and tablets emerged as forms of personal computing it signaled a sea-change in the world of information technology. People suddenly had the ability to use these devices as phones and mini computers simultaneously without being tethered to a desktop or laptop device.

As these devices grow in popularity, businesses know the importance of creating a mobile-first mindset for connecting their customers to their products and services 24/7.  While industry experts more recently debate mobile-first vs mobile-only, there is no doubt mobile web and mobile apps are going away anytime soon. So when it comes to your strategic business initiatives do you go app or do you go web, or maybe even both?

The era of solely focusing on users with a keyboard, a screen, and a click of the mouse is gone. 

There are benefits to each path depending on your use case and business objectives. Simply optimizing for mobile so you don’t miss out on SEO is a simple approach and a mobile web presence will suit just fine. However if you’re looking for a more integrated approach to your company’s digital transformation, things get a bit more complex.

Comparatively Speaking 

  • Cost
    • This is a toss-up. Some people believe mobile apps are more expensive to build than mobile web pages. Again, this depends on your approach and what your goals and user KPIs are.
    • Web pages smaller in scope and meant for informational purposes could be a lower cost of business, but if your goal is to engage users, build loyalty and provide constant connections, then a mobile app might in the end be cheaper because of inherent app behaviors.
  • Deployment 
    • Mobile web can, in some cases, be easier to deploy because you do not have to get approval from the app stores. 
    • However, we’re constantly seeing changes in screen sizes, SEO, design and layout principles that may have to be iterated on more frequently than with a mobile app.
    • Also, with a mobile app, users get notified when new updates and features are released surfacing important information so it readily accessible and top of mind.
  • Loyalty 
    • Mobile web capabilities make loyalty a bit trickier. If you require users to login to view content or access information, the UI and flows associated with authenticated accounts aren’t as streamlined. 
    • Mobile apps have simpler, often times on-touch authentication principles that make accessing important information easier.
    • Mobile apps encourage repeat visits. With personalized content, preferences, and settings, users are more inclined to come back to your app for their ‘own’ experience of your product and services rather than a generic version all users interface with.
  • Accessibility
    • Mobile web is inherently beholden to... the internet. 
    • Mobile apps are also heavily reliant on internet access, however off-line capabilities are made possible with caching of event, agenda, and program details so you can still access information while offline, traveling, etc., which is an added bonus for on-the-go lifestyles.
  • Customer Intelligence 
    • Mobile web is aggregating user data. With products like Google Analytics and Flurry, you can still get valuable user insight like popular pages, site traffic, events, and actions. But that data is typically cleared within each program’s respective caching cycle, so the ability to get user data and trends over time become less opportune. 
    • Mobile apps get better over time. The more a user engages with an app, the more data is collected and user journeys can be tweaked or mapped to optimize the user experience based on their app interactions.
  • Community 
    • A user-specific mobile app creates a sense of community where. A place where they can interact with like-minded individuals or other users in similar roles and industries, where a web page often times increases the barrier to seamless integration with community-like features. 

Judge Rules

Mobile apps and websites help to promote the mobile-first mindset by shifting digital touchpoints along the customer experience journey to a mobile device. When a customer can easily access your company’s website or app from their personal device, increasing the likelihood of engagement.

So are mobile apps better? As we indicated, neither mobile web nor mobile apps are going away anytime soon, and probably the most ideal relationship is that they both secure the validity of each other. With upwards of 5 billion mobile subscribers online, the importance of apps and the mobile web is only gaining steam.  

86% of mobile users are using apps and 68% of those users are choosing them to engage with a specific brand. The speediness of launching apps, the specialized content they offer, the real-time information, and the ability to store large amounts of data make a compelling case.

Additionally, mobile apps can be indexed by internet search engines so while they may not be reaping SEO hits on mobile web, they do gain traction with downloads. Couple that with hits and visits to a website, you could end up with higher results and overall ranking.

When it comes to your business objectives the decision lies in the strategic value for your customers. Are you building engagement? Are you sharing consistent, meaningful information? Are you creating a central hub of communications? Do you want to promote and provoke interest? Are you looking to make an impact?

If you are ready to build your company’s mobile app, the timing is right, and your digital transformation begins now.