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Mobile app or mobile optimised website?

Unsurprisingly the market share of Smartphones is predicted to dramatically increase throughout 2011. A ComScore 2010 study revealed that 45.5 million plus people in the United States owned a Smartphone and that it is the fastest growing segment of the mobile phone market, which comprises 234 million subscribers in the United States. The European Smartphone market experienced 41% growth in the past year alone [1].

The killer question most organisations will face this year is - app or optimise? To aid your decision making process, here’s a brief evaluation of the two approaches.

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps run natively on smart phones, they are designed and built with a specific device in mind.

Apps offer greater functionality as they use in-built facilities such as Compass, GPS, Camera and Phone - further facilities include:

1. Location services: Displays current location and surrounding area.

2. Push notifications: Ability to send ‘push’ messages to all users of the app, for example, ‘20% in-store sale’ today. The app does not have to be running for the device to receive and display the message.

3. Image recognition: Bar code scanner - scans a bar code and display information about the product.

4. Colour matching: Pick a colour from a photograph and find matching products.

5. Contact: Use the phone facility to make contact.

The additional functionality that mobile apps offer, over and above a mobile optimised site, reduces downloading time and provides an aesthetically pleasing graphical user interface, rich and simple at the same time. On the whole, mobile apps provide a much greater customer experience. Another value added benefit is that apps are mobile signal independent, meaning that the app retrieves and stores data locally.

Mobile Optimised Website

Mobile optimised websites are usually separate from standard websites as they are specifically designed to be viewed on a mobile device. There are many advantages to this approach including the following:

1. Larger customer reach: Can be viewed by a huge range of mobile devices which have a web browser; customers do not have to upgrade to a Smartphone to view - see the market share of the various mobile device vendors.

2. Build once: Constructed using existing standard technology - HTML, CSS and JavaScript. No need to create a separate version for different devices as with the above.

3. Can be located using standard technology: Using search engines or by links in documents and emails.

Conclusion

The conclusion as to whether to build native mobile applications or create mobile optimised websites depends on whether in-built mobile facilities (GPS, messaging, camera and phone) are required and whether offline mobile app browsing is important. Put simply - larger mobile optimised website audience reach versus highly customised mobile application user experience.

Some companies have decided that both mobile apps and mobile web are important for different target audiences and as a result have incorporated both into their digital marketing strategy.

References

[1]http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/9/European_Smartphone_Market_Grows_41_Percent_in_Past_Year

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