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Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Website: Deciding Which Is the Best Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Updated on December 30, 2016

As technology continues to advance into the mobile era, the question heard frequently in the business sector is, “Should brands build a mobile app or a mobile site?”

There are a number of characteristics to consider in regards to which platform best fits your business needs and budget. First make sure that you’re clear on exactly what your goals are for using mobile marketing strategies. This will enable you to review and evaluate the different features of each option as they apply to the best interests of your company.

The Pros and Cons of Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

Cost

Apps are more expensive to develop compared to mobile websites. This is primarily because apps must be designed for each device they’re used on so the costs depends on the number of platforms you’re designing for. The number of smart phones, tablets, eReaders and netbooks currently in use demand multiple platforms to ensure you are reaching the majority of the mobile market.

In contrast, through the use of website development protocols common to most web browsers you can create a consistent website appearance no matter what device or browser is being used. Thus, only one mobile version needs to be developed saving time and money.

Flexibility

Since mobile apps operate from the computer within the device being used, they can be extremely powerful and include a number of fun, eye catching and useful features. However, to change an app requires developing a new version, which must then be downloaded again by each user.

Websites are far more flexible to alter since they have a built in content management system which you can master without needing the developer each time you want make changes. This is an important advantage, since in order to maintain consumer interest and repeat visits, your content should be updated and altered frequently.

When considering the other side of the coin, however, you’ll still likely need to maintain two sets of content for your mobile website to handle the differences in the two platforms. There is also an additional cost incurred when using some mobile devices to access large amounts of data such as photos or videos. So the content sets used for your mobile and non-mobile websites may have to differ considerably, making for a greater time investment when updating the sites.

Yet, overall, the ability to self-alter your mobile site as often as you’d like still is a significant benefit, which is not similarly possible on a mobile app.

Convenience

It is frequently necessary to utilize a store or third party site in order to obtain an apps. This is not required for mobile websites, which are being created specifically for placement directly on the Internet.

Thus, mobile websites are more convenient for your consumers to use since they don’t have to first identify the appropriate third party site, locate the desired app, then download and install it on their device before they can access your content.

Accessibility and Speed of Access

Mobile websites are immediately accessible through browsers, while mobile apps are only accessible after being installed due to the necessity of going through a store or third party site.

Accessibility may also be sometimes delayed in the case of mobile apps as some third party developers require approval before the app can be used. Mobile websites do not have any such requirements.

However, comparisons after both the website and app are available show mobile apps to be far superior in terms of speed, providing results far quicker than websites.

Connectivity

Websites can only be used online, so users must either be in a location that provides an internet hotspot or they have access to a 3G cellular network.

Mobile apps are accessed offline though many also use an Internet connection to extend their reach and usefulness.

Type of Interface

Websites have static navigational interfaces, permitting limited interactive capabilities. Apps allow broader interaction potential with consumers and seamless interaction with other applications. The degree of interaction available encourages longer and repeated visits leading to greater brand familiarity. Consumers have been shown to be more likely to purchase brands that are familiar to them compared to those that are not.

Usage, Reach and Engagement

Mobile browser users outnumber mobile app users, perhaps due to a greater ability to reach farther distances. However, some app developers provide the option of connecting to the internet. However, an additional charge will be incurred for each app platform on which you want your app to display increasing expense.

While mobile browser users may outnumber app users, app users are more engaged while accessing information, spending twice as much time interacting with an app when compared to website users. App users also outnumber their website counterparts 2-1 in terms of number of visits and number of visits by unique visitors.

In terms of contact converted to business, however, reach does not necessarily result in increased sales. Variables such as time spent engaged with your content, ability to fully interact with features, number of new visitors and number of return visitors are better indicators of interest level than overall reach distance. This is a critical distinction as degree of interest is one of the best predictors of intention to purchase and follow-through.

Reason for Usage

Mobile website users are more likely to use browsers when shopping, searching and looking for entertainment. Mobile app users more likely to use their device for gaining information, connecting with others, and determining how to navigate to specific locations (e.g. GPS), or determine where they themselves are located at the time.

The Best of Both Worlds

There are hybrid approaches that have been marketed, such as Appcelerator’s Titanium Framework, which integrates aspects of mobile websites and apps. It functions by permitting developers to build your site using HTML/CSS/Javascript, which can easily be enfolded into a native app.

The key advantage of this is that you only need to engage in full-scale platform development once like you would with mobile websites, yet you can deploy it as an app with most of the possible features included. With the ability to develop for cross platforms, it is also simple to alter each platform simultaneously by returning to the basic code and making whatever changes you desire.

While considered a significant advancement in the field of mobile platform based content development, the current state of the technology does not include all the best features of websites or apps. This leaves you will an almost great product that’s not quite there yet. Most experts recommend holding off on choosing this technology until further development has been completed and focusing on mobile websites and/or mobile apps.

The Decision to Use a Mobile Website or a Mobile App

Experts suggest that the best choice is to develop both a Mobile Website and a Mobile App to take advantage of the different characteristics of each in order to provide your business with most flexible and all inclusive mobile marketing plan to reach the greatest number of consumers possible.

If your budget only permits you to develop one or the other, it is first crucial to establish your company’s goals and available resources. Other key considerations include determining what audience you most want to reach and what’s the best way for your business to connect with consumers.

Finally, review the pros and cons listed above and attempt to choose which features in each category are most important for the needs of your specific business. Only by considering and comparing each aspect can you determine whether a mobile website ot mobile app will provide your business with the most opportunities for growth, best ROI and greatest benefits over time.

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    • Natalie Frank profile image
      Author

      Natalie Frank 8 months ago from Chicago, IL

      I appreciate the support!

    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image

      Ashi 8 months ago

      @Natalie,

      You are welcome Natalie :) Always come up with such informative hubs. I would always love to read it :)

    • Natalie Frank profile image
      Author

      Natalie Frank 8 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Ashish - thank you for your response to this article. I'm glad you enjoyed it and that you found something useful to take away from it. Take care.

    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image

      Ashi 8 months ago

      @Natalie,

      Very good article about Tech-marketing. I enjoyed reading this work and I would say Mobile would be best marketing strategy for my business :)

      Keep on writing.

      Bless you.