When smartphones and tablets entered the world of personal computing, this event signaled a sea-change in the world of information technology. All of sudden, people not only had the ability to use these devices as phones, but to also check email with an always live connection to the internet without being tethered to a desktop/ laptop device. As the devices grew in popularity, retailers and others discovered the best way to reach people with their products and services was through an internet based app that would link a consumer right to their site. But then they realized, why not create an app that would sit on the user’s phone and give them direct access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as well as offer things an internet/ web based app could not. This meant companies needed to develop a mobile-first approach and probe the benefits and disadvantages of using either mobile apps or mobile web apps, maybe even both.
The Importance of Mobile-First
It used to be that most companies viewed the internet as just a way to reach potential customers and share information about what they did or the kind of business they were. The only real presence or use of the internet would be an internal “intranet” page for company usage or reference only. Consumers really did not have the ability to research or buy products.
The smartphone and tablet changed all that. Today, if companies do not have at least some presence on the internet, not to mention the potential addition of a mobile app, the possibility of their company failing increases tremendously. The era of focusing on users with a keyboard, mouse, and a large screen is gone, hence the mobile-first mindset. In fact, there are three key factors that companies need to think about that are really a carry-over from the desktop/ laptop days: those are target behavior, audience, and technology channel.
Companies must also have developers who can understand the nature of mobile and the needs of users, that they may be viewing internet pages with limited screen with no keyboard or mouse and be knowledgeable about responsive web design. But for a mobile app developer, companies need people who can create an app that takes advantage of the native capacity of the device, loads quickly, is easy to use, and speaks to the loyalty of its company base. This is what makes or breaks a mobile app and even, perhaps, a company’s reputation.
Customer Experience Journey
With everything in mind that’s stated above, the truth is a customer’s experience of your company, whether you are hosting a web app or creating a mobile app, can be positive or negative based on many factors:
- Having a mobile optimized website is essential if you want to do more than offer the ability for users to browse your site for information. Otherwise, those customers may wait until they are at desktop where the site can be displayed better.
- We’re all busy, and how people use their mobile devices is indicative of this. They are impatient and expect whatever they are accessing, be it a web or mobile app, to load quickly with minimal interference. What that transfers to, in the long run, is perhaps more downloads of the app at a later time.
- Along the same lines, mobile app users are mostly business people with a set agenda of finding the quickest ways to be the most productive.
- Believe it or not, gender can also play a role in how your app is perceived and used, so it is important to prioritize this point as well as project a wide appeal for younger males and females but to also older age groups, if possible.
- Mobile apps are being used more than ever in making purchase decisions, if not the actual purchase itself, especially for things like concert tickets, gift cards, , but a lot of users still prefer to make larger purchases or pay bills via a desktop/ laptop, perhaps because of the security they feel it might offer.
Company Touchpoints About Mobile App or Mobile Web
Based on the data available out on the internet about the success of mobile apps over web apps, the end result is inconclusive. Neither option seems to be more successful for driving traffic for retailers, as this graphic shows from business.com.
What this graphic does illustrate, however, is that mobile apps are still getting some heavy usage. Chances are more likely than not that these users are loyal customers of a particular brand who want to go a little deeper into their retail experience versus those using a web app just to visit and learn about what a brand might offer.
This data should be a real source of company touchpoints when thinking about the development of a mobile app. They are expensive, take time to develop, and special personnel are required with the skills to develop them. If your company feels that a mobile app is essential, keep in mind that the more bonuses you offer in your app, especially to loyal brand specific users, the more likely it is your traffic (and revenue) may increase.
Of course, this is a big “if” as most mobile users rely on 5 apps they use all the time, which are probably email, phone, instant messaging, and social networking and may use your app very little or once and delete it. So, your company should consider its ROI and also be sure to focus on the points that mobile apps offer security and faster access with a specific user account that can remove the potential for hacking, malware, and viruses that so often plagues desktop and laptop users.
Advantages Vs. Disadvantages for Mobile Apps
Besides the points already mentioned about developing a mobile app for loyal users, there are also some other major advantages for the developer and user of mobile apps.
- A streamlined app for users of both IOS/ Apple and Android users that makes updating the app easier. Furthermore, a mobile is more likely to improve over time as new versions are released, which offers faster access and even better native app integration.
- Chances are an app will offer better security, something which is so important with the prevalence of hacking and identity theft on the rise and in the news all the time.
- In the end, if these elements become the focus of your mobile app developments, costs are minimized.
- While coding and updating are different and perhaps quicker for a web app, this isn’t the case for a mobile app, which requires a different set of tools that may be more costly and time intensive, especially where multiple platforms are concerned.
- As operating systems for smart devices are updated and new phones and tablets are released, the developer will need to be aware of these changes and possibly have to redesign the app completely. This point is pretty valid since Apple has already warned it will begin phasing out 32 bit apps for 64 bit apps with the release of the iPhone 8.
- And unlike a web app that can run in almost in any web browser independent of its native environment, developers will have to decide whether they will support customers running an older version of the app or using an older smart device.
So Are Mobile Apps Better
This is a hard question to answer with a definitive “yes” or “no.” Neither web apps or mobile apps are going away soon, and probably the most ideal relationship is that they both secure the validity of each other. And with 77% or five billion mobile subscribers online, the importance of apps and the mobile web will only gain importance. But our society is becoming more and more mobile oriented every day, and users of apps want the following things:
- The speediness of how apps load and the specialized content they offer as well as the ability to store large amounts of data on a device. Mobile app users also like that they can use their apps online or off.
- 86% of mobile users are using apps and 68% of those users are choosing them to engage with a specific brand so those numbers point to the kind of population segment that can be reached.
- For companies, mobile apps can lead to increased productivity and better security. Lastly, the fact mobile apps can be indexed by internet search engines means that download of an app on top of visits to a company’s website can gain them a higher overall ranking and, in end, more traffic and possibly even more revenue.