I hear/see this discussion all over the place these days: “Should I built an app or a mobile site??” This conversation should never happen! Answering this question properly means understanding the purpose of these two platforms, so let’s go over that first.
Purpose of a mobile site:
- To be found via search engine by a prospect using their mobile device
- To provide users an experience that has been optimized for smaller screen size
- To serve relevant information to that on-the-go user (location specific content, etc..)
Purpose of a mobile app:
- To engage existing customers
- To make mobile shopping experiences easier
- To provide functionality above and beyond what a website can easily accomplish (think location services, push notifications, etc..)
Notice the primary difference here is the point at which people are in the buying cycle. A mobile site, we recommend responsive websites (and so does Google), will help you attract new customers by way of non-branded search engine queries. People aren’t going to discover your company by way of an app store search, they’re going to discover you through search engines.
Now, let’s get into the “when is a mobile app beneficial” part of this discussion. Mobile apps provide functionality that goes far above and beyond what the typical website can do. They can send push notifications for sales/promotions which the user sees instantly and they can use location data to present relevant content to users. For example, let’s say I run a grocery store chain and have an app built to present coupons to my customers, new products, etc. I use my app to notify customers of specials, coupons, and in-store events like wine tastings. One way I might utilize location data is to give users the option that when they are near one of my stores (can even narrow down to just the one they frequent), they get an alert reminding them to check the app for coupons, or to remember to use their membership card. Getting even more targeted, I could install Beacons throughout my store which could fine-tune my coupon serving. Beacons can be installed in stores and pin point exactly where in the store a customer is using Bluetooth. So when you’re in the cookie aisle, your app knows that and we can push you a coupon for cookies you like based on your purchase history (because you’re logged into the app using your VIP info)…talk about serving the right promotion at the right place to the right person exactly when they need it!! This is just one example of app engagement, but the possibilities are endless.
The moral of the story is this: Before you ask yourself if you need an app, you need to evaluate how you want to connect with your current customer base. If you’re trying to attract new customers, you should probably abandon the app idea and look at acquisition channels.