What Kind of Mobile Technology is Best? Native App or Mobile Website?

The scales have finally tipped, and your customers are now more likely to find you via their mobile devices than they are on their PCs. This means your business needs to quickly align itself with best mobile technology marketing practices in order to keep yourselves positioned ahead of the competition. So, the question becomes: How best to use mobile marketing to your advantage? That question leads to: What kind of mobile technology is best? A Native app or a mobile website?

First, let’s review the differences between the two.

Native app. A native app is written specifically for a particular hardware platform. It becomes a part of the device’s hardware until/unless a user chooses to delete it. One of the advantages to this is that it will run faster since no translation is needed. They’re best suited for very specific service or task-oriented applications. Native apps are purchased/downloaded from an online app store. Examples include the Camera+ app for Apple’s iOS devices or the way Instagram works.

Mobile website. Mobile website applications translate across the mobile device spectrum. The difference is they are not device specific but, rather, they live on the web and are are all accessible via the device’s web browser. Mobile website apps may be slightly slower to load when it comes to specific task-based applications – but they are still much faster loading than websites designed for desktops only. There is also no need to purchase or download anything extra.

So, which mobile technology is best for your business?

The bottom line is that while there a few specific instances where native apps might be the way to go, the world of mobile technology is moving more in the direction of mobile website applications because they’re more cost effective, can instantly reach a broader customer base, and continue to meet the demands of a fast-loading and easily navigable site.

In terms of design:

Native apps. As mentioned above, they have to be designed for specific devices. So each device (i.e. Android, iPhone, etc.) requires separate programming and development. It is hosted by a permanent site and lives on the hardware of your customers device(s). This can be a detriment because studies show that while customers love to download apps, they don’t use them regularly. This doesn’t necessarily provide a positive ROI. They are best when task speed is essential and/or the app requires the use of a device’s specific features.

Mobile website. Because they are hosted by a mobile content management system (CMS), and are not device specific, they are much easier to build and scale. Unlike native apps, they do not require standard software development kits (SDK). Although they may not be able to interface with all of a particular features of a mobile device, they can be customized to work with some.

In terms of cost:

Hands down, a mobile website is significantly more affordable to design. Depending on the complexity of the service or data you are delivering to your customers and clients, a native app can cost you thousands, and possibly more thousands, of dollars to design and maintain. A simple mobile website design should cost you less than $1000, depending on the number of pages involved.

In terms of customer abilities:

Native apps. If your company wants to provide a very specific and secure service to the clients, a native app can help you do that. Because they are sold in an app store, the customer will be directed to your app via the store’s search and marketing features. If your service requires the use of a native device’s specific features, information, or hardware, a native app might be your only option.

Mobile website. Customers will appreciate accessing your website, social media accounts, and other applications via their web browser, without having to download anything special. The majority of a company’s needs will be accessible via the device’s features, such as geo-location, media, etc. Because the design is fluid, customers won’t be using different versions of the app, it remains current in real time as you update your website and features.

One example of a company with a native app gone good, and then bad, is the BBC. As shared by Art Wittmann of Information Week, the BBC had a successful native app that was very popular in the UK. In fact, as many as 50% of their media downloads occurred via their BBC app. However, the app wasn’t nearly as popular in 16 of the other countries it was polled in. Most people, globally speaking, were happiest with their mobile app options. Thus, the BBC has opted to scrap the expensive app and focus their attentions on successful mobile website strategies.

The moral of the BBC’s story: If you are trying to reach a more global market – both literally and figuratively speaking – your mobile technology strategies are probably best aimed at mobile website applications.

Image via www.homergroup.com

Published December 10, 2013 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Mobile Marketing, Mobile Technology