The way that consumers access content and use products continues to adapt, and nothing has increased in popularity more over the previous few years than smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Recent statistics show that mobile web visits currently make up between 30-40% of all page views on the web, so companies are having to strategically think about how they position their brands and offerings.
From a development perspective, this poses an interesting problem as reaching your audience can be accomplished through a few different means. With the rapid adoption of responsive design and native applications, most brands have eliminated their “mobile-only” or m.yourbrand.com sites, but many still have a single web presence that isn’t optimized at all for the mobile experience.
As a result, a common question that is arising when seeking to identify how to reach the mobile audience is whether to build a native app, a responsive website, or a mobile application. Let’s look at a few things to take into consideration when faced with this decision from a marketing perspective.
What Does My Target Audience Look Like?
Putting on our marketing hats, you will want to carefully research your audience and how each target market digests information and makes purchases. There are wide variations in how different demographics use mobile, and establishing your customer-base will be vital to making this decision.
A few key demographic areas to analyze include:
Once you have a solid profile of what your target market looks like, you can then back into a potential answer to your technology need. For example, if you are targeting an older demographic, you may think that these individuals are only shopping offline. However, according to Comscore, smartphone usage is booming in the older demographics.
“While total U.S. smartphone penetration is up 8 percentage points in the past year, three age groups increased their penetration by at least double digits – Teens Age 13-17 (up 10.0 points), 45-54 year olds (up 10.7 points), and those Age 65+ (up 11.6 points).”
If this is your market, then you will need to pay close attention to your mobile strategy in order to effectively penetrate this market.
What Products or Services Does Your Company Provide to Users?
Now that you have properly identified your target market, you will now want to consider the actual product or service that you would like to provide to the end user. The type of offering will play a huge part in your decision whether to go with a responsive website, a mobile app, or a native application.
For example, if you are an eCommerce company that has a large number or repeat users and a wide array of products, a mobile application would probably be the best fit. A few well-known companies that fit this bill are Amazon and Zappos, both of which have a very well put together mobile applications that are typically among the 20 most downloaded apps in their respective platforms.
If you are using your website to provide a steady stream of content or video, and your end goal is to generate leads for your sales team, then a responsive website would probably be the best fit. It is typically easier to manage content on a responsive website as opposed to an application, and much of the inbound marketing activities go to landing pages. If a prospect had to download an application before they could research your company, your ROI would dramatically suffer.
There are a number of SaaS companies that are doing a great job of selling their product without needing to develop a mobile application. Moz, Kissmetrics and CrazyEgg are just a few of many examples of content-rich companies that are using this strategy and doing extremely well on a responsive site.
From a technical perspective, there are numerous items that may influence your decision on whether to go either the responsive site, native app, or mobile application route. These include:
- Regular Use & Personalization
If you have a large number of repeat visitors and would like to give individuals the ability to tailor their experience, then you may want to go the mobile application route.
- Native Functionality
There are many platforms where the ability to integrate certain features of the device may prove to be useful. Examples of these functionalities may include items such as GPS, the camera, and contact lists to name a few. Mobile applications offer these types of integrations much more easily.
Security is a big deal, especially when it comes to transactions on the web. There are exceptions, but mobile applications are generally considered to be safer for user’s information and privacy.
The monetization of an application, whether a cost-per-download, requiring a subscription for content or generating revenue through advertising can prove to be a deciding factor as well. These can provide a much-needed revenue stream, and the checkout process in the app store tends to be relatively seamless.
As you can see, the decision to build a mobile application, or invest in a responsive website or native app isn’t necessarily black and white. There are a number of factors that go into the decision, and ultimately will rely on a careful analysis of your target market, the products or services that you provide, as well as any technology or security concerns that you may have.
However, by taking the time to do the research on the front end will not only give you a clearer answer to this question, but will also allow you to provide your end-user with a better experience and ultimately increase your company’s bottom line.