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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.