As you think about your marketing tools, you must now consider how you will reach your customers via mobile. Whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, over half the nation is using these devices. Before you can decide between a mobile website or an app, make sure you understand the difference.
Like a desktop website, a mobile website is a browser-based HTML site accessed over the internet. However, a mobile website is designed for a touch-screen interface for a smaller handheld display.
An app (short for application) is actually downloaded and installed to your mobile device as opposed to accessing via a browser. Apps must be formatted for different operating systems such as iOS (Apple), Android, or Blackberry. Some apps require an internet connection, while others have information downloaded so that it can be used without a connection.
If you’re not going to have both, deciding which is better really depends on the nature of your business, your budget, and the relationship you wish to have with your customers.
The cost of a mobile site is minimal compared to an app and hosting fees do not cost that much per month. If you already have a standard website, it can be simple to create a mobile site. However, if you have an agency and a designer building a site, make the mobile site part of the game plan. All of this can be accomplished by asking your agency to create your new site to be responsive. Meaning, the website responds with the appropriate output, based on what kind of device the user is using. And if your agency doesn’t know what you’re asking for, your next step should be to get a new agency.
Creating an app is another story. But it may be one with a happy ending. You’ll need to enlist the help of a designer and a programmer who codes the data for mobile. So you may be hit up for $10-20K. And it depends on how elaborate you want to get. An app created just for shopping would probably be cheaper than let’s say, one that also finds your car keys, feeds the dog, and controls the weather. But keep in mind, if mobile is the best place to find your audience then this can be a worthy investment.
As long as a user has access to an internet connection, he has access to your mobile site which does give it the upper hand. However, once a user takes the time, and possibly money, to install your app, he then has it with or without internet. Again, however, if your app is streaming a news feed or other updated info from the web, the user needs a connection to see all aspects of it. Nowadays, though, since most devices are on 3G and 4G, you should be covered as long the user isn’t trying to reach you from the mountains of Montana, or an airplane.
Both a mobile site and an app can drive revenue. Both give your customers another option for shopping your store or services. But an app can provide an additional revenue stream if you charge a fee for it. If your app offers a service for your customers beyond easier shopping, the cost can be justified. A weight loss clinic could offer a meal journal app along with a weight and measurement tracker. A hardware dealer could create a paint or lumber calculator app for the professional contractor or the DIYer.
Remember, the only right answer is what’s best for your business, what will better drive a purchase, and which will bring you closer to your customers. Both build brand awareness and both are a critical element in marketing your brand. And there’s no reason you have to choose, you can have it all.