As the online world becomes increasingly mobile-based, businesses that aren't optimized for mobile devices are falling behind. Large percentages of a business' traffic access websites on mobile phones and if a business' mobile presence does not provide users with a good mobile experience, a business can lose both sales and brand credibility.
Optimized mobile websites can be a great asset to any brand, particularly when a business simply needs to continue their brand presence on a mobile device in a way that conveys important information. However, mobile websites are lacking in two ways:
First and foremost, they require users on mobile devices to go through the steps of bringing up their browser and taking the time to navigate to a website. This means that it takes two actions (opening the browser and navigating to a homepage) just to get to a mobile version of a website. This can make it significantly harder for a business to really convey all the information they want to get across to users on a mobile website because of the extra steps users are forced to take to access content.
Second, a mobile website doesn't provide anything new to a user. A good mobile website might have some tweaks from its desktop version in an effort to make the mobile experience easier, but most elements of a mobile website - like copy and imagery - will be the same. For businesses that know that a large percentage of their audience is on mobile devices and want to bring users a unique and engaging experience with their brand on mobile, this is simply not good enough.
The Benefits of a Mobile App
When these shortcomings begin to effect a business' bottom line and brand credibility, it is time to take a serious look at building a mobile app. Mobile apps provide businesses a way to engage with users outside of their mobile browsers due to their location directly on a user's phone. The very best mobile apps help to solidify user trust in a business at a greater level than a simple mobile website could ever hope to be able to accomplish.
Mobile apps do this by building brand recognition away from the browser, on new mobile platforms like iOS and Android devices. It is worth noting that if a business only offers basic information that could be conveyed in a website, It isn't worth the time or money to develop an app that will likely not be approved by the Apple or Google Play stores.
Two important questions a business should ask itself before taking the time to invest in a mobile app are: "How unique will this app be?" and "What kind of return on investment can I expect?" There are almost an endless amount of different apps available, and if a business can't stand apart from what is already out there, building an app is probably not worth the time or hefty outlay that is required to make it effective and useful.
The reason for building a mobile app should be clear to a business. Whether the goal in creating an app is an increase in sales or just using it for its capability to much more effectively drum up social media awareness than a mobile website, having a KPI to measure an app against is extremely important.
Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites
Building a great mobile app provides a business with a much better presence on a user's mobile phone than a simple mobile website can ever achieve. The large percentage of mobile use occurs inside of apps, and if a business can build one that provides value to users, it will certainly create more brand loyalty and value than a mobile website. At their core, mobile apps can be designed to do whatever a business wants - from entertainment and user engagement to customer service and easier purchasing options for B2C companies.
When done correctly, mobile apps can help create more value for a business with users than a mobile website can. Apps also allows businesses to keep in closer contact with their audiences by creating a dedicated program that takes up real estate on a user's phone instead of forcing audiences to navigate through to a browser to keep in contact with a business on their mobile devices.
Staying in closer contact with an audience will allow businesses to create more sales, trust, social media awareness and brand recognition if the app is built correctly and does something unique and engaging for an audience.