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In the early days of m-commerce it was often asked whether brands should opt for a mobile app or a mobile website.

I think most marketers now accept that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and the decision should be made based on the business needs and aims of individual companies.

However a new report from Compuware suggests that consumer preference is strongly in favour of apps (85%) ahead of mobile sites.

The most common reason for this is that apps are seen to be more convenient (55%), faster (48%) and easier to browse (40%).

The benefit of mobile apps vs. mobile websites

Compuware’s survey found that users have high expectations of mobile apps, with 42% of respondents stating that they expect them to load quicker than a mobile website.

Just over a third (36%) said they expect apps to load at the same speed as websites, while 23% said that the mobile web should be faster to load than an app.

On average smartphone owners expect apps to load in two seconds, while 28% said that apps should load in one second or less.

This suggests that users have less patience with apps then they do with the mobile web, as a survey published last year found that smartphone owners expect mobile sites to load in four seconds. 

How quickly should a mobile app launch?

Just over half (56%) of respondents said they had experienced a problem with a mobile app in the past six months, which seems quite low based on my personal experience.

The most common problems were the mobile app crashing or freezing (62%), being slow to launch (47%) or failing to launch at all (40%).

While 79% of consumers would retry a mobile app only once or twice if it failed to work the first time, only 16% would give it more than two attempts. Poor mobile app experience is therefore likely to discourage users from using an app again.

A similar survey by Xtreme Labs found that a third of top 100 US retailers don’t have smartphone apps, while those that do suffer from issues such as a lack of features. 

The average rating achieved by iOS apps in the App Store is 2.9 stars out of five, while on Google Play it is just 2.2 out of five.

On iOS the most common complaints were a lack of features (26%), frequent crashing (23%), and poor design (22%).

Android users suffered similar problems, with crashing being the main complaint (33%), followed by the app not working as intended (26%) and a lack of features (25%).

The data in Compuware’s report comes from a survey of 3,534 smartphone users across the UK, US, France, Germany, India and Japan.

David Moth

Published 12 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1684 more posts from this author

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Charles Nicholls

If the app does exactly what you want, then for sure its easier than navigating to a full site. This works really well for online banking, for example, but less well for ecommerce where there are more varied tasks. Packing a full ecommerce site into an app may be unrealistic.

Forrester data shows that consumers far prefer a mobile web experience over apps for shopping, and if the mobile site has less functionality that the full site, then their preference of the the full site.

Charles

over 3 years ago

Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles, Web Designer at The Data Octopus

Big businesses have no excuse not to have an app, they are undoubtedly a great way to encourage repeat custom.

However for a smaller business it is likely an unnecessary overhead and a responsive site will serve them much better for first time visitors.

over 3 years ago

Mike Smee

Mike Smee, Business Development Country Manager (UK) at Devatics

I can buy into this from a Smartphone perspective. However, I’d be really interested to see what the thoughts were from tablet users? I’d hazard a guess that with a screen approaching the size of smaller laptops and considering the “sofa-surfing” nature of their usage, that people would not be that keen on downloading an app and clogging up their desktop with an icon for every commerce site they tend to visit…Opting instead for the mainstream site.

over 3 years ago

Femi Omoluabi

Femi Omoluabi, Vice-President UK at Pure Agency

An excellent report, but the findings really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Yes, apps are favoured by consumers however engagement and loyalty remains an issue. This has been a huge issue for brands, who for the most part fail to 1) embed their apps in strong Mobile CRM ecosystems 2) Test app functionality rigorously. The challenge here is that if the situation continues, we risk creating apps that will only satisfy in the short term. Bottom line, you need to ensure you have firm testing and marketing plan for any apps you create, ideally you should have one tailored for smartphone and tablet users separately.

over 3 years ago

Bridget Randolph

Bridget Randolph, Online Marketing Consultant at Distilled

I found this report surprising, as the result is actually not at all what I would have expected. My understanding has always been that an app should be created (in addition to a mobile site and as part of an overarching mobile strategy) only if there's a good reason for using that format for a particular purpose. So I would love to have a bit more data from this report to better understand what the questions were. Otherwise it feels as though quite a lot of context is missing.

For instance: apps are favoured over mobile sites with what purpose? for shopping? for getting information about a company? for user experience? Is this data the same across all industries (As Charles points out, the user's needs for mobile banking are different from the user's needs for an ecommerce business)?

I would also note that the purpose of an app is often(or should be) different from the purpose of a mobile site, so in a sense this survey is comparing apples and oranges. A question like, 'do you prefer to shop for clothes using an app or a mobile site' would be more useful.

Chris notes that apps are probably better for large companies rather than small businesses. Along the same lines, I would suspect that users who visit the same site over and over might be happy to download an app, but are you going to download an app to use a business or service you might never need again? I don't know whether the lack of context is the fault of the study itself or simply a limited focus of this report, but I would be curious to dig a bit deeper into the actual questions and responses.

One final thought: there is a danger of this sort of data leading to companies failing to create mobile-friendly sites (whether separate URL or responsive design) because 'we have an app'...but even if the app is our primary means of engaging with regular mobile customers, search traffic is largely going to land on the website so we still need to have a mobile-friendly site.

over 3 years ago

Marcin Grodzicki

Marcin Grodzicki, Founder at BOOM

Good comments here - I'd like to follow up on what Chris and Bridget wrote earlier - big vs small cos and their mobile strategy. The debate app vs web is pointless if no users download your shiny, ux-polished app. Even small ecommerce will invest in SEO, SEM and other types of advertising, which means that a customer looking for products on a mobile device (via google) will land on their mobile site. Promoting an app is a completely separate activity which would require separate media buys and management, and I'd argue, for smaller retailers would be rather fruitless.

over 3 years ago

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Enzo testa

I can't believe that consumers would download an app every time they want to use an ecommerce website. Sure I can understand it would make sense if you regularly use the same retailer but you can't the same amount of info into an App that you can on a mobile website. Besides why would you want to clog up your screen.

over 3 years ago

Colin Jones

Colin Jones, Marketing Manager at WompMobile

I'm not surprised by these findings that those who have a mobile app are more pleased by the app experience compared to mobile websites. However, I feel to say that mobile apps are better to have than mobile websites is inconclusive from these findings. Very similar to what Marcin, Bridget, and Chris have said, you can't compare these two services because they are completely difference users using them. Those that are willing to opt-in to downloading a mobile app already have established a need for the company they are viewing, and know they may use this more than one time.

However, having a mobile website is crucial to the overall web presence of a company. A mobile website will be searched more times on a whole from customers, both current and new, and making your site accessible to those customers is essential.

Furthermore, more customers are going to prefer mobile apps over mobile websites because of the lack of quality mobile websites to date. Companies are under the impression they need to just "throw up" a one page mobile site and have that suffice. Companies need to understand, no matter what size they are, that a well thought out mobile site is an investment and shouldn't succumb to "free" mobile solutions or template mobile sites.

Once more companies begin utilizing mobile solutions that can create them custom mobile sites, then we'll watch this dissatisfied number of customers decrease.

over 3 years ago

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Magnus Eggers

Apps are a great sales channel because it enables direct customer interactions through for example push notifications. In terms of sales, an app outperforms a mobile site, at least in my experience. In terms of SEO and online marketing, nothing changes because you can always let the customer chose if they want to download the app or not. I think we are going towards a more app-driven eCommerce in the near future and I don't agree with only big companies should have an app, small retailers can easily gain a competitive advantage and leverage off their current eCommerce platform by investing in mobile apps.

over 3 years ago

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Steve Renshaw, Box UK Ltd

This research seems to to leave out a whole raft of context to the questions and answers.

For example, how many people are going to download or retain an app if they're only going to use it once every 2-3 months (or less)?

Apps need to be sticky to be worth building. It's for good reason that the most popular.apps on people's phone homescreens are social media, news and music. If you're a business that can provide that sort of content then fine.

However, for most organisations where real-time information and updates is less important, a well designed mobile site makes so much more sense. It's easier to manage, the experience can be made to be app-like (location services, swiping etc), and you don't have to build one for every different phone O/S platform.

Makes me wonder what the impetus behind this study really was...

over 3 years ago

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James Gervs, Account Manager at Certified Marketing Proffessionals

Actually there are a lot of local businesses that can use mobile apps to a great advantage, same goes for Municipalities, and Community Organizations.

I am an account manager and work with a lot of local companies and apps are in demand right now for companies who want/NEED customers to engage with them on a regular basis and allows them to easily incentives repeat business, with new campaigns at will.
Check it out here proformamobileapps.com

almost 2 years ago

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