Today, most consumers use their mobile devices to search for products and services. Businesses have to embrace a mobile strategy, as apps have surpassed desktop usage. One of the key dilemmas encountered by companies of all sizes is the choice between an app and a website.
Some companies suppose that optimizing their existing site for smaller screens is enough. Others point to additional benefits of app technologies. Making a decision is not easy. Should you limit your investment to website development or enter the app market as well? Discover the pros and cons of each path in our guide.
The mobile app development industry shows no signs of slowing down. In the first quarter of 2021, over 5.7 million apps were available through Google Play and App Store collectively. The projected annual revenue is over 693 billion US dollars as compared to around 582 billion a year prior. In 2020, consumers worldwide downloaded apps for Android and iOS over 218 billion times!
Mobile access is surpassing desktop usage exponentially. Consumers have been spending more time on their mobile devices since 2015. Even Google reports that more searches are made on mobile.
Companies that ignore these statistics risk losing customers. If you fail to reach your audience where it spends most of its time, you are guaranteed to see your bottom line shrink.
Mobile App Vs. Web: The Difference
Both apps and optimized websites can be accessed from smartphones or tablets. Mobile sites contain HTML pages that are browser-based and linked with one another. They can adapt to different platforms and screens, which is described as responsiveness.
Just like conventional websites, their mobile counterparts may include text, images, video, and assorted data. Additionally, they may incorporate special features like mapping based on location or click-to-call. The biggest difference from apps is that mobile sites work within browsers on smartphones and tablets. Thus, users do not have to install any software on their devices.
Applications are downloaded and installed on particular hardware with a particular OS. Apps pull content from the internet or download data to make it accessible offline. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Advantages of Mobile Apps
The most expensive apps are usually native — i.e., developed for a particular mobile OS, such as Android. Native apps are written in the programming language of the platform. At the same time, there are cross-platform solutions. For example, the Flutter framework lets developers create apps for Android, iOS, and the web using the same code base. The potential advantages for your company include:
1. Branding Opportunities
Your app will be separate from your website, so it will offer fresh branding opportunities. This allows experimentation with styles and tactics. Give your customers opportunities to interact with your brand in a new way. Apps are great for driving engagement.
With apps, it is easier to offer a personalized experience — i.e., tailor the content to the location, interests, or behaviour of each user. For example, they may show specific deals or discounts at particular stores. Your customers can specify their preferences after downloading the app and customize it as they see fit. An app can also collect data concerning user engagement and provide personalized recommendations or updates.
3. Using Device Capabilities to the Fullest
With a native app, you can leverage the full range of device capabilities. For example, the product may interface with the camera, GPS, and other features. This significantly enhances the UX, particularly for retail apps.
An effective app is an extension of your brand that offers features that are inaccessible elsewhere — for example, vibration alerts, tap to call, and push notifications. Responsive websites can only access some features of mobile devices. They also come with important technological constraints.
4. Offline Access
Many mobile apps can be used without an internet connection. Some of their functionality and content are accessible in offline mode. This means that users can access them anytime and anywhere.
5. Customer Engagement
With mobile apps, users can achieve their goals more easily. They are built with particular pain points in mind. Your target audience can interact with your content in more engaging ways.
For example, an app may be designed to provide interaction with particular components. The more valuable these interactions, the more often users return. This forms a habit and eventually boosts conversion rates.
6. Brand Presence
Finally, a user that downloads your app gives you real estate on their device. Even when they are not using it actively, they are still reminded about its existence. Your app icon will work as a free advertisement for your brand and a loyalty booster.
Advantages of Mobile Websites
Basically, a mobile site is a version of a regular website that has been optimized for smaller screens. The biggest benefits include:
1. Broader Reach
As your website becomes accessible across platforms, it can be shared easily. Your reach through organic search also grows. It is higher in comparison with an app that is limited to one app store.
If your budget is relatively tight, a mobile website could be more attractive. This is particularly true if you want to gain a mobile presence on different platforms, not only Android or iOS. With just one website, you can develop a comprehensive presence and accessibility from any mobile device.
3. SEO & Brand Visibility
Did you know that optimizing your website for mobile will make it more visible in organic search? The latest updates to search engine algorithms give mobile-friendly sites an advantage. You will see more traffic, which will translate into more conversions and higher revenues — of course, if you provide an excellent user experience.
Which to Choose?
To sum up, choose a model that suits your business objectives. If you are focused on reaching the widest group of users, a mobile website could suffice, as it is not platform-specific. On the other hand, a mobile app can provide better engagement through richer interactions with your target audience.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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