Mobile App vs Mobile Web – How to Decide Between the Two?

At Adobe Summit 2017, Travis Sabin, Mobile App Product Manager at Adobe, and Benjamin Weiss, Mobile Product Manager at Walgreen Co., presented “The Scuffle on the Strip – Mobile App vs Mobile Web.” Both Mobile App and Mobile Web represent different views of how to supply the best experience for your customers and each have their strengths and weaknesses. However each approach needs a specific strategy to win the battle.Image of Mobile App vs Web
What are the industry trends for this topic? In the audience, 85% of the people claimed their company has a mobile app. In 2010, Wired declared that mobile apps were the answer and mobile web is dead. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reversed that declaration.
In looking at Adobe Analytics data, mobile Web is growing at 42% file mobile web is growing at half that amount. In addition, traffic growth is driven more by mobile web than app. Search is the most common starting point for mobile research. 48% of all traffic starts on search engines.  However, on mw, users are spending less time on the site and that amount of time is decreasing over time. 40% of customers will switch to a competitor if the mw experience is bad.
In digital media, mobile app is dominate, growing 90% since 2013. 90% of time spent is in mobile apps vs web. Facebook is the top app at 19%.
In summary, web is tops in visits, but app is tops in time spent in the app. So if time spent is your goal, then app is the way to go.
Discoverability is difficult with apps. There are 2.oM apps in the Apple App Store, and 2.2M apps in Google Play. Half of the time spent on smartphone apps occurs in the individuals single most used app.  This could mean that your customers spend most of their time on Facebook and could care less about your app.
In terms of preferences, 20% people prefer web, 23% prefer app and 32% prefer the combination. 24% prefer nothing.
Key advantages and disadvantages for mobile web and mobile app:

  • Mobile App advantages – don’t have to be connected to the internet all the time, quality experience, dominate time spent
  • Mobile Aoo disadvantages – currency, storage, screen and purchase, few apps crack top usage, discoverability
  • Mobile Web advantages – access to all content in one place, easier maintenance, nothing to download or occupy space, dominates traffic
  • Mobile Web disadvantages – Not always responsive, connectivity is required

Use cases:

  • Local Search
    • Walking down the street and wants to find a restaurant near me
    • Mobile web is the winner. 80% of nearby searches happen on mobile web. Near me searches frown by 33%.
  • Location
    • Mike is going to game and wants to see offers near the park
    • Mobile app is the winner because the app has access to your location, can support beacons, etc.
  • Messaging
    • Ryan is a sports fan and wants to get push notifications when team is about to play
    • Mobile app is the winner because you can receive push notifications easily on the mobile app
  • Hardware Access
    • Want to submit insurance claim with a photo to prove damage
    • Mobile app is the winner because it is very easy to access mobile hardware devices. You just can’t get the detail on the web.
  • Shareabilitiy
    • Nicole wants to share content with her followers
    • Mobile web is the winner because of ease of sharing the hyperlink.  Just copy/paste the link or click share on the web.
  • Customer service
    • Terry wants help on the new laptop he just bought
    • Mobile app is the winner because interactive chat is more responsive and easier in the app
  • New Customers
    • Cindy wants to find a new dress and new stores
    • Mobile web is the winner because mobile web is the top of the funnel where more searches happen. It is also a lower commitment for the customer than downloading an app.
  • Exposure
    • Lori wants to know who provides safe and quality furniture
    • Mobile web is the winner because it is much more discoverable through search results and industry specific directories.
  • Loyalty
    • Andy wants to be rewarded for going to his favorite restaurant
    • Mobile app is the winner because it can identify loyal customers and can offer rewards and on location offers
  • Influence purchase behavior
    • Jenny wants to find best deal on yoga pants while shopping
    • Mobile web is the winner.  60% of consumers use the mobile web exclusively to search for information to inform their purchasing decisions

The result of these use cases?  A tie or no decision!  To deal a knockout blow you must have both an app and a responsive web.
At Walgreens, 70% of traffic is now coming from mobile devices. Their strategy is to have both a mobile app and the mobile web. How did they decide to do both?
First look at the customer, then the business then the technology. For customers, are your customers willing to devote screen real estate to your brand? Do your customers interact with your brand at least 1-2x per month?  Do you have a large, loyal segment of best customers? Walgreens found that most of their customers had lower power phones with minimum memory.
On the business side, do you have sufficient budget to support the app and keep up with maintenance? Do your designers and developers have expertise in iOS and Android app development? Are you organized to support concurrent app and web development?
From the technical viewpoint, focus on this last.  But answer, does your strategy require frequent use of devices hardware? Will your content needs change frequently? Do you foresee supporting platform extensions, like Apple Wallet, Apple Watch, etc?
Here are some use cases from Walgreens:

  • Refill by scan – use the phone camera to scan the barcode on the bottle and submit a refill request.  It also uses location services to get you to the nearest store.
  • Scan to register – uses the camera and barcode to pre-fill the registration fields
  • Pill Reminder – uses notifications to help people stay compliant with their meds.
  • In Store Mode – the app knows when you are in the store.  It provides coupons, points, and maps of where items are at in the store.
  • Local inventory – check an item availability in both the web and app.Image of Mobile use cases
  • Rich content – Walgreens found that rich content is much harder in the app. Its much better to deliver rich content via the web.

To summarize, there are use cases that are better for the mobile web and others that are better for the mobile app.  Its best to consider both in your mobile strategy.

About the Author

Mark Polly is Perficient's Chief Strategist for Customer Experience Platforms. He works to create great customer, partner, and employee experiences. Mark specializes in web content management, portal, search, CRM, marketing automation, customer service, collaboration, social networks, and more.

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