Stop for a minute and look at those around you. Are the majority of the people hunched over, engaging primarily with their mobile phones vs. each other?

Today, 97% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, this number has increased from 35% in 2011.

What does this sea change in attention mean in the use of smartphones for businesses?

It means that reaching your consumers is, in some ways, easier than ever before. A captive audience is waiting to digest content, interact with your brand, and make purchases, all through (hopefully) a couple of quick taps on their phones.

It also means that brands must take a serious look at their mobile commerce strategy.

Since 2016, eCommerce sales have multiplied by more than 3.5 times. Additionally, the total share of mobile eCommerce sales relative to total eCommerce sales has increased by over 39% in the same period.

And, according to research from Statista, these sales are projected to reach $3.56 trillion worldwide in 2021.

Part of this upward trend is due to the increasing popularity of mobile shopping apps. Statista reports that since 2017, the install-to-purchase ratio has almost tripled worldwide, with smartphone users in the United States using retail apps at least once a week. One in five of these shoppers reports accessing their mobile shopping apps multiple times in a single day. Amazon leads the way with 14 million daily active iPhone users in the United States.

Interestingly, not only is the number of mobile users growing, but the time spent on mobile devices is also increasing at a dramatic rate. Today, US mobile users spend 234 minutes a day on their mobile devices, up from 188 minutes in 2016.

All of these numbers point to a future in which mobile commerce is not simply a trend but a pillar of a brand’s omnichannel strategy.

For brands interested in capturing mobile sales, the question then becomes, do you invest in the development of a mobile app or a mobile website — or potentially both?

Let’s take a look at what strategy is optimal for brands looking to expand their mobile footprint.

Mobile Apps Vs. Mobile Websites

According to a CMO Survey, marketers currently prioritize mobile website investment over mobile app investment seven to three, but is this prioritization correct?

Both mobile apps and mobile websites offer a set of unique benefits as well as drawbacks. An omnichannel strategy can include one or the other, or even a combination approach. Which approach is right for your brand will depend a lot on your business objectives and your customers.

We’ll start by looking at the major differentiators between mobile apps and mobile websites when it comes to a mobile commerce strategy.

Mobile Apps

A mobile app is developed for a specific platform, such as iOS or Android.

Mobile apps are downloaded by users and installed on a device. Examples of commerce apps include Amazon, eBay, Groupon, Starbucks, and H&M, to name a few.

These apps are found by users within an app store and allow customers to interact with a virtual shopping experience within the platform, rather than by visiting the brand’s website or social media page.

Additionally, beyond just a platform for shopping, many apps include account management and built-in reward tracking.

The Benefits of an App

Designing a native mobile app is an excellent way for brands to tap into increased mobile commerce sales opportunities.

The following are all benefits of opting for app development over a standard website experience:

  • Improved Data Tracking: A mobile app, once downloaded to your customer’s device, allows you to track a large amount of data. From geo-location tracking to demographic information, you can gain a deep amount of knowledge about your customers as they use your mobile app.
  • Customized Experience: A mobile app allows you to create a customized experience for your customers. Customers tap to open their app and are greeted with personalized messages, custom experiences, and targeted sales.
  • Push Notifications and Communication: There is perhaps no better way to communicate with your customers than through an app. Push notifications and in-app messaging allow you to reach customers in a highly targeted manner. After all, seeing a red circle above your app is likely to push customers to read your message much quicker than an email that lands in their inbox.
  • Offline Capabilities: Once an app has been downloaded, users can navigate to many features of the app without internet connectivity. This is a huge benefit for reaching customers on the go.
  • Improved Interface: Apps are generally more intuitive than mobile websites. Consumers are familiar with navigating app interfaces and will find what they need more quickly through a well-designed app than through the web.
  • Fast Load Times: After an app has been downloaded, it will operate faster than a website. Much of the data needed is downloaded to the user’s device, cutting download times.
  • Location-Based Marketing: Through location tracking, apps allow you to market specials to customers based on their current location. This can be extremely effective for brands that operate brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Brand Awareness: Every single time a customer who has downloaded your app opens up their phone, they see your logo. This brand awareness helps keep you top of mind.
  • Built-In Reward Programs and Payments: Apps make it easy to build in reward programs, allowing customers to track their rewards conveniently. Take Starbucks, for example. Customers enrolled in their loyalty program can track stars earned and reload money to the app, making it simple to purchase products in the physical store.
  • Easy Account Login: Websites require users to log back into their accounts. Apps, however, can be set up to keep users logged in and use biometrics for fast account access.

Would you like to learn more about this topic?

Learn More >

The Drawbacks of an App

While mobile apps are a highly beneficial choice for brands looking to increase mobile commerce sales, there are a few drawbacks to designing an app over a mobile responsive website.

  • Download Requirements: For a user to access your app, they have to be aware of the app and take the time to find your app to download it. This requires a certain level of awareness, brand loyalty, and trust.
  • Platform Choices: When designing an app, you will have to determine whether or not you develop an app for both iOS and Android devices, or one or the other. Choosing the right platform and style of app development can be complex.
  • Upfront Costs: Unlike a website, an app requires a highly specialized development process. Creating an app can involve a high upfront cost for your brand.

Responsive Mobile Websites

In today’s digital world, almost every commerce brand has a website. A mobile-optimized website is simply a responsive version of a website designed to accommodate different screen sizes.

This means that whether a user opens a website on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, the website’s layout will adapt and allow users to navigate through the site more easily.

The Benefits of a Mobile Website

In many cases, brands looking to tap into mobile sales will begin their journey with a responsive mobile website. This route offers the following key benefits:

  • No Download Requirement: For new customers, a website is the way to go. It does not require a customer to download anything to their device, making it simple for anyone to access.
  • Availability on All Devices: Unlike the limitations with apps, users can access a website on any device, regardless of the operating system.
  • No Updates or Version Changes: When a user downloads an app, they will need to download updates later to keep up with version changes. However, when accessing a website, the work is done for them.
  • Lower Upfront Cost: For brands just tapping into the mobile space, a website is a low-cost way to begin. Websites allow newer brands to test the waters without a major upfront investment.
  • Familiar Experience: If your customers are already accustomed to navigating your website, accessing it on their mobile device will feel familiar and easy. There is no hurdle in learning how to navigate a new app.

The Drawbacks of a Mobile Website

While adding a mobile website to your omnichannel strategy is a fast and easy win, there are a few notable drawbacks to relying on a mobile website rather than designing a native app.

  • Usability: A well-designed app will outperform a mobile website when it comes to usability tests. Apps are created with only the mobile experience in mind, making it easier to create an intuitive experience.
  • Load Time: Mobile websites can be slower to load than their app counterparts. This makes it imperative that a mobile design focuses on speed times.
  • Internet Requirements: To access a website, a user must have access to the internet. This can limit usage on the go.
  • Not Top of Mind: Unlike an app, which remains on a user’s device at all times, a website requires that the user opens their browser to navigate to your website on their own or via an ad.

Creating A Blended Mobile Commerce Strategy

There is no doubt that any digital commerce strategy of the future will include a mobile strategy. However, whether a mobile app or a responsive mobile website is the right choice will depend a lot on your business goals and objectives.

Mobile sites are a great way to attract new customers who don’t yet have brand loyalty. They are effective for reeling in potential buyers through the top portion of the purchase funnel.

Mobile apps, however, are an excellent tool for converting customers into loyal brand followers. They are highly effective at encouraging repeat purchases and for ongoing communication with customers.

A blended approach is an ideal choice in many cases, allowing brands to capture new leads through an optimized website and, later, convert first-time customers into loyal consumers using a native app.

If you are looking for ways to improve your mobile reach, talk to our team at Vaimo. We can help you determine what strategy is best for your current business goals and what omnichannel strategy you will need down the road. Backed by years of expertise, our team will help you analyze your audience and determine the best way to reach new and prior customers alike.

Learn More >