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Mobile Site vs Native App: Pros and Cons

It’s a debate as old as mobile marketing itself.  Mobile site vs native app – that is the question! Clients may think they know what they need when they come to your agency for help, it’s up to you to guide clients in the right direction, towards a mobile solution that fits their strategy. That being said, when it comes to your small business client, which is better?

Let’s back it up…

As any good marketer knows, tactical decisions should be backed up with a sound strategy. An app or a mobile site shouldn’t be confused with a mobile strategy – they are simply the tools used to create a mobile experience for consumers. Your client’s mobile strategy should address their customer’s needs, mobile usage and preferences. In fact, different mobile solutions can and should be used to reach different customer segments, at various stages in the sales funnel.

Quote - MMA

You can have it all

Once upon a time the debate of “one over the other” was valid – high development costs prevented many businesses from having both a mobile optimized web presence and native app. These days, depending on the complexity of your website, building a responsive site or web app can be done with minimal investment, while native apps can also be built quickly and easily (with no coding skills needed). With the traditional barriers no long holding businesses back, it’s feasible for businesses to adopt and embrace a variety of solutions as each can play an important role in creating an overall mobile experience that the consumer expects. So when are these powerful mobile solutions best used?

Mobile sites

With mobile taking over PC as the primary device for Internet browsing, it’s imperative that your company website is mobile-friendly, especially if your business depends on a steady flow of visitors from mobile search. When it comes to creating a mobile optimized site, responsive design is a popular solution for businesses who already have a strong web presence.  That being said, HTML5 Web apps are a great solution for business looking to turn their website mobile, yet want some of the benefits of an app.

Easy to create and manage, web apps are growing in popularity. Essentially mobile optimized web pages that can be viewed by any device, web apps mimic native apps when saved to a user’s smartphone home screen. Web apps differ from responsive design in the way that they are more streamlined versions of the website, providing users with a more precise, features-based experience, built for touchscreens.

Lufthansa mobile web vs native app

The desktop version viewed on mobile vs. the mobile-friendlier web app, which can be saved to the home screen to mimic native app.

 

Compared to native apps, web apps do have a few draw backs; they can’t be distributed via the popular web stores, content can usually only be accessed when online, and they do not allow deep level user engagement, like location-based push notifications. On the flip side, content is searchable and you have much more flexibility with interface design as you do not need to comply with guidelines set by app marketplaces.

Native Apps

Native apps are specifically designed and developed for a certain mobile device and operating system ( iOS, Android), and for this reason they are known to offer a better user experience than their mobile web counterparts. Native apps are also available offline – making it a great solution if your user’s connectivity is questionable (i.e. will they use your app in the subway?)

Unlike webapps, native apps offer the amazing opportunity to send out push notifications to your app’s users. With native apps, you can also take advantage of integrating devices hardware for increases functionality (ie. integrate with users camera for photo-sharing). Monetization is also a benefit of going native – integrating banner ads into your app is easy with tools such as AdMob and iAd. And as mentioned, native apps can be made available through various app marketplaces (i.e The App Store, Google Play), expanding your exposure and reach worldwide

Downfalls of native apps? Content in native apps won’t show up in search results as it is not on the Web, so getting discovered relies on your ability to promote your app. Also, since you’re using app stores to distribute your app you must go through the approval process, both at the launch and when making any interface updates.

So, which wins – mobile site or native apps?

As you can tell, there are many mobile solutions that can help your client reach their mobile goals, and sometimes it may even include a mix to reach everyone.  Many successful companies – big and small – maintain a native app and mobile optimized website, proving that a combination of solutions if often the best route.

With mobile development more accessible than ever, the battle is no long one versus the other, but how to adopt the best solution to meet your client’s business goals.

 

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