Avinash Parhi

7:50 PM, 15th Mar 2018

App or no App – Choosing the Right Mobile Strategy !!


In 2016, no one seriously doubts that mobile is future of the web. We have already crossed the era, a couple of years ago, where businesses could ignore the importance of mobile users. Today, being mobile-friendly is considered mandatory. But what does it mean to be mobile-friendly? There are only limited choices: the mobile web and/or the mobile app.


Offlate there’s a lot of money which is being spent for promotion of apps, which is definitely not surprising. Given that roughly 90% of our smartphone time is spent in apps, every brand is trying to figure out how to get users glued to their apps. Now that’s possible, only if they could keep them off, from not uninstalling the apps, over a long run.

According to Forrester, on an average, smartphone users access 26.7 apps each month, but spend 80% of their time in just five apps which includes one/ two social networking, one for messaging, one for cab hailing service and a wallet(which almost certainly won't be your app). Still worse, about 20% of apps are abandoned after the first use, while users delete another 50% within five to six months globally. The abandon rate is far higher in India.

Nevertheless none of the above parameters indicate that apps are a bad strategy. In our mobile world, they're infact essential. But it needs to be approached differently. Firstly, are they important for the business being referred to and do they have the capability to keep the end-user engaged since in all probability they will not be Facebook, Whatsapp or Uber. If apps are important, then they're critical for driving "bottom of the funnel" engagement with a brand's most committed users, the "whales" that drive a company's business.

Let us try and understand the advantages of both Mobile Website and Native Apps separately in detail.

Advantages of a Mobile Website over Apps

If goals are primarily related to marketing or communication of information, a mobile website is almost always going to be the logical practical first step in one’s mobile outreach strategy. This is because a mobile website has a number of inherent benefits over apps, including accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness.

1.    Instant Access– Mobile Websites are instantly available while app download is a significant barrier for initial engagement

2.    Compatibility – Mobile Websites are compatible across Devices

3.    Upgradability – Mobile Websites can be updated instantly

4.    Findability – Mobile Websites can be found easily with basic SEO. No need for any manufacturer/platform based App Stores

5.    Shareability – Mobile Websites can be shared easily by Publishers, and amongst Users

6.    Reach – Mobile Websites have broader reach as is accessible across platforms

7.    LifeCycle – Mobile Websites Can’t be deleted by users.

The average shelf-life of an app is pretty short, less than 30 days according yo some research, so unless the app is something truly unique and/or useful (ideally, both), it’s questionable how long it will last on a user’s device. On the other hand, mobile websites are always available for users to return to them. 

8.    A Mobile Website Can be an App- With fast paced advancements in technology, just like a standard website, mobile websites can be developed as database driven web app that act very much like native applications. A mobile web application can be a practical alternative to native app development. (Ex: Accelerated Mobile Pages & Progressive Web Apps).

9.    Time and Cost - Mobile Websites are easier and less expensive

10.  Support and Sustainability – Mobile Websites are easier for support and sustainability as compared to Apps


When Does an App make sense?

Despite the many inherent benefits of the mobile web, apps are still very popular, and there are a number of specific use cases where an app will be the best bet. Generally speaking, an app makes sense if the firm needs to solve for the following points:

  1. Regular Usage and/or Personalization (Understanding Target Audience) – Firstly, the most important point is to think about target audience - Who are the people and how many among them use smartphones? Secondly, how many would actually bother to download the app? It is also important to ascertain the most preferred mobile OS or mobile operator. If the functionality of benefit to the user can't be implemented on the web, it is a good reason to create a mobile app. But if the only benefit is to the company, then it's a little rude to nag a user into installing an app on their phone. While if target users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion and on a regular basis (think EverNote) then an app provides a great way to do that. This includes regular shopping, communication, social networking and cab hailing services.
  2. Interactivity/Gaming – for interactive games (ex: Subway Surfer) an app is almost always going to be best choice, at least for the foreseeable future.
  3. Complex Calculations or Reporting – If the requirement entails to manipulate data with complex calculations, charts or reports (think banking or investment) an app will help do that very effectively.
  4. Native Functionality or Processing Required - mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if one needs to access a user's camera or processing power an app will still do that much more effectivley.
  5. No connection Required – If one needs to perform functions without an active network connectivity or needs to provide offline access to content then an app makes sense.
  6. Budget & Type of App– Budget analysis to develop, maintain and expand – cross platform formatting for an App is important considering the maturity of the business and available funds. Once sure to have an App, it needs to be choosen the type of App: Native App vs. Hybrid Apps as both have different benefits.

7.    App Content – Mobile apps need to be updated constantly not only to fix bugs and improve compatibility but also to attract customers, while also retaining the old ones. Mobile users are fickle and forever need something interesting to hold their attention. If the firm fails to update app often enough, users will soon move away onto another product.

One needs to think of all of the above-mentioned points, before going ahead to develop the mobile strategy for the business. The mobile web is open, it's universal, and it's come a long way in the last few years. Entrepreneurs should think long and hard about whether a native app is the right way to go but again not at the cost of ignoring mobile website and desktop websites as in most cases (except for on-the-go cases) mobile app if needed will be for the ardent followers while SEO optimized desktop and mobile websites are still the playground for window shoppers and new prospects !!

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