Friday, April 13, 2012

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web - Why Not Both

Mobile Apps versus Mobile Web: which provides the better consumer experience?

Mobile Apps provide a much richer user experience, allowing the app publishers to leverage many capabilities of the mobile operating system including geo-positioning, direct in-app commerce, gyroscopic sensors, the camera, and much more.

Mobile Web provides a much richer degree of ubiquity and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. Back in the late '90s, web browsers introduced a new paradigm shift in application development in which browser-based SaaS became a better model over the native Mac vs. Windows vs. UNIX vs. SunOS challenge existing at that time. Thanks to the mobile web and upcoming HTML5, the similar challenge of native iOS vs. Android vs. RIM vs. Windows goes by the wayside.

A recent study from Nielsen indicates that retail web sites are more popular than retail apps by approximately 2 to 1, and that is THE most popular web site of all. 

By why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why can't the mobile web and mobile apps coexist in a complimentary manner?

This is the very conclusion that panelists of a recent webinar co-sponsored by Mobile Marketer and Fiksu. Brands represented included JetBlue Airways, Staples, Fiksu, and ESPN.

So just how do the mobile web and mobile apps play together? Here are some tips that the panelists presented:

Advantage Mobile Web:
Here are three cases where mobile web is your better option:
  • Content that needs to be fresh and up to date - It's easier to update a web site than it is to update an app and to expect users to constantly re-install the latest version
  • Need to be easily discovered - Thanks to Google and Bing, people are going to find your mobile web app a lot easier and quicker than they are searching through the various app stores.
  • Cost and Time to market are top concerns - Developing a mobile is very expen$$$$ive. If you're developing for iOS, be ready for the headache of getting your app approved through Apple's (seemingly capricious) approval process. Developing for Android? Then expect to spent a significantly more amount of time testing for all the flavors of Android. Developing for Windows? Why in the world are you doing that? ;-)

Advantage Mobile Apps:
Here are three cases where a mobile app is your better option:
  • The Customer Is Always Right -  Let's face it. Consumers today almost expect their favorite brands to have a presence in the app stores.
  • Establish Long-Term Loyalty - Mobile apps are a thumb-touch away. If you have a compelling app, your customer are very likely to continue interacting with your brand over the long term.
  • Nothing beats a native app - Many brands have successfully duplicated their customer experience between the mobile web and the mobile app (e.g. Redbox, for reasons stated at the beginning of this blog post. Nevertheless, there are other brands that are driving for a deeper, richer user experience that only a native app can provide.

So how do both mobile web and mobile app compliment each other?

For one thing, use the mobile web to promote the mobile app. As mentioned before, don't just rely on app store searches for your app to be discovered. Search algorithms on the web are light years ahead of those used in app stores

Your brand strategy probably isn't a one-sized fits all approach either. Use the mobile web when you want to offer breadth of content to your customers - especially when it needs to be constantly fresh. Then, use the mobile app to take your customers to a more focused and deeper experience.

How are you using the mobile web and mobile apps to compliment each other? Post your replies to this blog post.

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