In 2016, an estimated 62.9 percent of the worldwide population already owned a mobile phone, and Statista forecasts that the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019. According to a report by Nielsen, U.S. adults now spend nearly half a day on their smartphone. This data is very crucial to businesses. As supported by data, mobile has become an integral part of our lives and if any business is not considering or utilizing a mobile presence strategy, a swift demise into obscurity is on the horizon. When your customers favor mobile devices over desktops, shouldn’t you prioritize your efforts with the mobile audience in mind?
Mobile presence is the need of the hour. Any business that’s developing a business presence has a fundamental question: Should we develop a web app or mobile app? To clarify the differences, a web app is simply a website that took a mobile-first approach and is designed to be viewed and used on a smartphone. Mobile apps, on the other hand, need to be downloaded and installed via an app store and those gain and use access to your system resources. Web apps function like mobile apps, but from the comfort of the phone’s browser.
Working for a software development company, we get asked the question about web and mobile apps about five or six times a week. But the question isn't right.
Whether you develop a mobile app or not is something we will address later on in this article, but a mobile-first strategy is mandatory. Let me rephrase the question for you now. I have a website that is responsive on mobile. Do I also need a mobile app? Once we ask that question, we can understand that there are a set number of factors that need to be accounted for to help you develop a mobile strategy that best suits your business objectives.
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Why is a mobile-first approach so critical for businesses?
Given that mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage since 2016, and mobile traffic as a share of total global online traffic in 2017 is just over 52 percent, companies need to design their applications with mobile in mind. Websites should fit the screens of different devices automatically, displaying content in a way that is compact and comfortable to browse. Also, until you are a brand name in your niche, it is very likely that users will first land on your website rather than downloading your app. Nearly 8 in 10 customers say they will stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device, and 57 percent of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile.
The mobile-first approach shifted the paradigm of website user experience. If you want to develop an interactive learning application or a social media application, using a mobile app is an option, although it rarely makes sense to build these apps without already having a mobile website in place. If you want to develop an interactive game or an AR-based app, however, a mobile app will be the best option, even without a web-based application. In some cases, you may need only a web app or mobile app and in some cases you'll want both.
Let’s examine some factors that will make this decision a little less tricky.
Why use mobile apps?
According to Statista, consumers downloaded 178.1 billion mobile apps to their connected devices in 2017. In 2022, this figure is projected to raise to 258.2 billion app downloads. Let’s see some inherent advantages of mobile apps.
A mobile app means branding. Apps are an extension of your brand and what value you hold as a company. Gradually, an app enters into the personal space of your users and is always present on their device and accessible with a single click, allowing the brand to carve its own niche and build value for itself.
Mobile apps offer tailored content by allowing users to set preferences based on interests, location, behavior and more. Those set preferences allow businesses to serve targeted advertisements to users. Customized recommendations and location-based promotions are easier to tailor toward specific customers once they share preferences.
Leverage device capabilities
A mobile app has access to built-in features of devices and this helps to enhance the customer experience. Let’s take push notifications, for example. These can be sent at any time and users don't have to be in the app or using their devices to receive them. They can show the latest sports scores, download coupons or let a user know about an event, such as a flash sale.
Another crucial advantage is the opportunity to use them offline. As apps are installed on a mobile device, they can keep providing access to content and features even without an internet connection.
When does it make sense to build a mobile app?
1. When your company develops a loyal customer base that you know would appreciate the added platform.
2. Businesses that intend to access device capabilities, like GPS, click-to-call, cameras or scanners, should consider using apps. Snapchat and Uber are good examples of organizations that use device capabilities.
3. A dynamic content-based interactive forum requires a mobile app. Examples include Magoosh and Byju’s.
4. Interactive games like PUBG and Angry Birds work best as mobile apps.
But not every business needs a mobile app.
For small businesses or businesses that are just starting out and aiming to deliver superior content and establish a broader market presence without much user interaction, developing a responsive website will be much more economical, quicker and convenient than a full-blown mobile app. Renowned giants like Yelp and Zillow see most of their traffic through their web apps. Before making any decisions, know your business requirements and know your client niche.
If your goals are primarily market-driven and just introductory market presence, a mobile-friendly responsive website is a logical choice. On the other hand, mobile apps may lead to a competitive advantage if you are aiming at targeting loyal customers and equipping them with additional services.