Should You Focus On Your Mobile Website Or A Mobile Application?
By Mihir Shinde
In today’s competitive landscape, it’s a no-brainer that mobile should play a huge role in a company’s implementation strategy. There are two primary paths available for a company to build out mobile strategies, especially with limited resources: prioritizing your mobile website and prioritizing your mobile app.
I have been in the mobile landscape for 10 years. My experience ranges from working with budding entrepreneurs trying to build a blockbuster app to working with established brands with millions of users. I built out a mobile website for unique travel experiences and am currently working on a mobile app for the Indian health and fitness market. This is to say, over my years, knowing which mobile route to take has always been the first question to tackle.
Which route you take should be based broadly on the type of business you’re in.
Choosing Your Mobile Focus
If you’re a seasonal company, where customers mostly think about you during certain times of the year, having a more robust mobile website makes more sense than investing in an app. If you’re the sort of company that wants to keep users highly engaged all year, then an app just might be worth the effort.
All companies would like to live in the realm of keeping customers highly engaged all year, but it’s key to know your strengths. If you require daily engagement — like the grocery business — then it makes sense that customers would be willing to sacrifice phone space to get better deals. Push notifications with discounts are highly effective in doing so, marketers are getting better at using them
If you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum — selling large-scale hardware like Apple — it doesn’t make sense to have an app because customers are buying twice a year. This means the benefits of an app (e.g.., personalization with regular usage and the need for native functionality) are not necessary, making a mobile website adequate.
Although app engagement times are on the rise compared to time spent on mobile website, as your business is hardware-oriented, the increased time spent in-app will most likely not result in a conversion. This is because, to be blunt, it doesn't matter how engaging your app is. Users really don't think that hardware is a basic necessity that needs to be bought multiple times.
Keep in mind that I’m talking from the point of view of an individual customer here. You, as an individual, might buy from Apple twice a year, but obviously, as a whole, Apple receives orders every second.
Grooming Your Customers
Once you have the nature of your business figured out, the next step is to groom your customers accordingly. Let’s break down some common thinking centered on these strategies. This advice focuses on a broad scope, so you will need to tweak it for your company's goals.
With a mobile website, you want to encourage users to use your site regularly or even embark on spending sprees. For electronics, often Cyber Monday comes to mind as an example here. The idea is to get customers hooked and channel high traffic to your mobile website. Mobile shopping brings enormous convenience, which is applicable for apps as well. However, if you sell the experience as a spending spree, you’re cementing a deadline for user, thereby inciting FOMO (the fear of missing out) if they don't convert soon.
For those of you who have chosen to focus on a mobile website, always build your website around the core offering of your business. Your website needs to be excellent with the basics — load speed, site search and the overall UX. And make sure that your mobile website is optimized for search engines.
In the case of an app, it’s more about patience for the consumer. They will have your app on their phone, and, yes, they’re savvy enough to understand you’re going to be wooing them with offers. They won’t always take the first bait, but this approach is more about them digesting the information, taking time to absorb the discounts and then pulling the trigger. Here, you can benefit by rolling out low discounts, and when you want users to bite, let out a high discount. The consumer wins because it’s the best discount they have seen, and you win because you got your product sold.
When going the app route, keep in mind that the development landscape is constantly changing, which is both exhilarating and daunting. The goal is to increase the time spent in your app by users. To encourage them to do so, personalize the app, since this will increase user engagement and help your app stay relevant. You can also take advantage of push notifications to keep users on their toes.
Before launching, be sure to conduct beta testing to get early feedback. A lot of companies push their finished app out once it's perfect in their eyes, but your focus should be in creating a minimal viable product and gathering quick feedback. As you get more feedback, keep pushing updates (e.g., product iteration).
Moving Forward With Larger Growth
These are just some examples of strategies that you can use, but as technology progresses, everything effectively changes — even now, signs that progressive web apps and instant apps are game-changers are becoming apparent. In the end, you must understand the type of business you’re in and adapt your mobile strategy accordingly.
As businesses grow with resources, the need to make large distinctions between these two priorities decreases, and hybrid strategies become stronger. For example, Alibaba has both an app and a website. For them, the importance is less on where a user comes from, as long as they do come and convert. They've created their own FOMO experiences, such as their focus on Single’s Day.
No matter the size of your business, having a strong visualization of your strengths will always help you understand how best to maximize your reach and convert your users.