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By 2014, mobile internet is set to overtake fixed internet access. This was the big headline from Microsoft Tag's Mobile Marketing infographic last year.  

No surprise perhaps, seeing that out of the world’s 4bn mobile phones in use, 1.08bn are smartphones, and apps have become a global phenomenon. Apple’s App Store alone has now reached 25bn downloads, tracking at 1bn downloads a month, a figure nine times greater than the number of burgers sold by McDonald’s!

Consumer’s expectations are changing and as more and more businesses go mobile, you need to ensure you’re not losing customers by not moving with them.

If 10% of your total audience are using a mobile device to reach your website, it might be time to start thinking about making an investment in mobile. 

Identify your needs before investing

Investing in a mobile site or app should not be considered lightly, it’s a decision that will dictate how your customers engage with your company and can potentially determine how well your business competes in the mobile marketplace.

This makes it is essential to carefully evaluate the merits of mobile sites and apps so you can make an informed decision about the best mobile approach for your business.

When deciding which mobile route to take, it is useful to take the BARDIC approach. This approach evaluates your mobile needs by considering the following:

  • Budget. What sort of budget is available for the initial investment and for on-going enhancements and maintenance?
  • Accessibility. What mobile devices are the intended target audiences using?
  • Revenue. How will the solution generate revenue for the business either directly or indirectly?
  • Delivery. How do you want to deliver information to your target audience? 
  • Integration. Does the mobile solution need to take advantage of the mobile device’s native functionality such as GPS?
  • Connectivity. Will the intended target audience have an internet connection when the mobile solution is required?

Evaluation against these factors allows businesses to objectively assess the suitability of the mobile platform for their market and target audience needs.

Budgets

It is almost always more cost effective to create and maintain a mobile site over an app. 

This is because mobile sites are built using HTML whereas apps must be written specifically for one or more of the leading mobile platforms: Apple iOS, Google Android and to a lesser degree Window Mobile, potentially doubling or tripling investment costs. 

Additionally, apps must be submitted for approval by the likes of Apple or Google which can be a lengthy process.

However, this investment may well be worth it if there are substantial revenues to be made from sales via the app store or retailer of choice. 

Accessibility

If your target audiences are using a range of mobile devices including iPhones, Blackberry’s and Androids then creating a mobile site is likely the best approach. Whereas, if you are confident that your users will all be using an iPad, then this makes a strong case for creating an iPad app.

For example, many hospitals now provide their doctors and nurses with iPads that include real-time patient history and treatment information that empower them to provide better and more responsive patient care. In this case, the mobile solution was developed with an audience in mind and therefore the mobile app route was selected.

Revenue

If your mobile requirement is simply to generate business leads from mobile users, or provide a mobile e-commerce site, then a mobile site will suffice.

But if you intend to generate sales directly from the app, either via purchases, advertising or upgrading within the app, then utilise established app stores. 

The benefits of using an app reseller means you don’t need to worry about payment solutions and it puts you in front of a huge marketplace.

Delivery

As mobile users are time poor and usually on the move, it is important that any mobile solution helps users achieve their goals quickly and easily.

Think about how and where your audience will be accessing your site. Downloading a 100MB recipe app whilst in the supermarket is a non-starter but allowing users to find a recipe on a mobile site that allows them view the ingredients whilst shopping is a better alternative.

Integration

Native apps make use of all the phone’s features, such as the mobile phone camera, geolocation and the user’s address book, while mobile sites are limited to features available within the mobile browser software.

If your mobile solution relies on information such as geolocation to function then this might be the deciding factor to use apps.

Foursquare has become a huge success because it can identify your whereabouts very accurately using your phone’s GPS without you having to give it any information.

Apps make mobile clever!

Connectivity

The big advantage that apps have over sites is that they can work offline and store large amounts of data locally. 

Apps can work offline and allow users to synchronise this data with central servers when available; lending themselves well to business applications, games and reading.

Increasingly though, internet penetration and availability will grow across the planet, which in the longer term will limit the deficiency of mobile sites.

Conclusion

Mobile sites and apps are both great but don’t get carried away, some things are best done on big screens and if you don’t have more than 10% of your target audience using mobile then don’t rush. Just start planning for next year.

This post was written by Jeremy Anderson and Holly Davis (Project Manager) from Obergine.
Jeremy Anderson

Published 19 July, 2012 by Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson is Client Services Director at Obergine and a contributor to Econsultancy.

2 more posts from this author

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Anna Storrs

Great article! Really informative overview helping to make the decision.

Another point I'd add is that if an app is not for you, then don't forget that you can still allow your mobile site to still be quickly and easily accessible by allowing users to save your mobile site to their mobile desktop along with the rest of their downloaded apps. The Marks and Spencer mobile site is a great example (m.marksandspencer.com).

almost 4 years ago

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David Rankin

they say that by the end of the year 25% of all searches will be on mobile devices.A mobile strategy is quickly becoming essential for every business.I think most businesses will favour a mobile site rather than an app because of cost and functionality. An app has to be unique to stand out in today's market and it has to be more than a brochure

almost 4 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

My opinion is that a mobile website should be an optimised version of your existing website for all mobile platforms - ensuring that all pages and functionality are similar to the existing site.

An App on the other hand should be more of a tool or a game that is useful, entertaining or used to accomplish something.

There are probably examples where the line between the two are blurred.

One benefit of having a website is that you can use various types of online advertising such as AdWords, using a mobile campaign for example.

almost 4 years ago

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Tore Julø

Regarding integration with the OS and (on Android) other apps, it is true that this integration is limited at the moment.
However, web apps can already access the geolocation API on both iOS and Android (I don't know about WP) and more are on the way.
The problem for Android is, that we cannot properly leverage Intents from a web app, which is kind of a bummer.
Also, we cannot launch notifications, even though there is such a thing as webkit notifications on the desktop.

Regarding the connectivity point, web apps can in fact be made to work online, if the the user is using a modern browser.
Assets can be cached on the client device via AppCache and data can be stored in a client side database.
There are a few examples in this presentation: html5-demos.appspot.com/static/html5storage/

almost 4 years ago

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Olly Percival, KODIME

Geolocation services are readily available on mobile sites, it's pretty simple. Also, there is no real approval process for apps in Google Play.

I'm personally of the opinion that a business needs to have a decent mobile site in place before they can think about an app. If 10% of your web traffic is mobile then having an app will not always help. Not everyone will want to download it and if you have built Android and iOS apps only, Blackberry users are going to have a pretty poor user experience.

If you have a decent mobile site in place, however, you can redirect users there without them having to see the main site at all. This will work across all handsets, Blackberry and WP included. If you also have an app, you can prompt people to download it at this stage.

almost 4 years ago

Elle Holgate

Elle Holgate, Digitial Planner & Copywriter at Vexed Digital

I used to sit far more on the fence than I do now on the mobie-web vs. apps question: I now believe that you should aspire to having a mobile app. The question is if you have a strong enough business case for it.

To pick on a few of the points made in this article:

1. Budgets - supporting multiple devices with Html also has a cost, and there are techniques available to apply Html development skills to app development. I'd also point out that there is little delay in Google Play submissions and that the Apple submission timescales are unlikely to have a significant impact on your strategy.

2. Accessibility - your audience is always likely to access your services with a mix of devices. The important point is that iPad, iPhone and - to a lesser degree - Android account for the vast majority of your *active audience*. I decent mobile site for all users is a must, but a better app-based experience for iOS users is the next natural step.

3. Revenue - app conversion rates will usually be higher than mobile web conversion rates

4. Delivery - how users will access your service (and especially how often) is the critical question here. If your users only look for you once a year (e.g. a hotel for my summer holiday) then search and mobile web are your natural choice. But if you can provide them with an app they will use more regularly (e.g. focused around kite-surfing because that was the reason for your first hotel booking), then you will have prominence over your competitors who still rely on search

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Hi Jeremy,

Nice piece. I agree with nearly all your points and actually wrote a blog along very similar lines. It would be great if you took a look and we could discuss this in a bit more detail perhaps.
http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/mobile-search/mobile-retail-applications-native-v-web-apps/

almost 4 years ago

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Voip Application

If you're considering iPad to be within the mobile domain, don't miss Flipboard, which brings together social network and news content into a great "page-based" magazine presentation. Also links to google reader to capture any RSS feeds that you follow...

over 3 years ago

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Alex

Tablets Beat Out Smartphones for Web Pages Views
After looking at 100 billion visits to 1,000+ websites worldwide, the Adobe Digital Index is reporting that tablets have taken over smartphones for the first time in global web traffic generation. While PC's are still the predominant medium for web surfers, with tablet sales beating out PC sales by more than half at the end of 2012, it is evident that mobile devices will very soon be THE place to go for web browsing. That said, it's virtually impossible for companies not to jump on the mobile bandwagon, no matter the company size or industry, and be visible anywhere.
https://www.snappii.com/blog/articles/Tablets_Beat_Out_Smartphones_for_Web_Pages_Views_-_Where_is_Your_Business

about 3 years ago

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