We spoke to those operating in the app development space to determine what advice they'd give brands looking to develop an app or mobile site as part of their mobile strategy – and how they can decide which one to go for.
Mark-Anthony Baker, director & head of strategy, Fetch
You should always have a mobile site if people are actively searching for you. This is about your business, and if users are looking for you, a mobile website is a hygiene factor.
An app strategy is great, but you must provide the experience that your consumers are looking for. A mobile site with a wire framed version for apps with inclusion of native features that enhance the experience is not only cost effective but a great route to market.
An app strategy is not wrong on its own, if this is what your consumers need or your business model demands, but your strategy needs to be easily adaptable. Having a unified web site and apps as one makes the development cycle a breeze for future OS, changes in screen size and new devices. If you head down the route of an independent app for every OS, you will be drowning in technology changes before you know it.
Kevin Galway, business development manager, bss digital
Before making this critical decision, it is paramount for brands to understand their target audience and their customers’ interaction with the website. What do customers want out of an app? What technologies do they use, etc? Depending on how much a customer interacts with the website and the business, the brand and its digital agency can then decide whether a mobile site or an app is best suited. Remember that there is no magic formula to create a popular app or a mobile site. Be open and honest with your digital agency and outline what you want the solution and your customers to achieve.
Ollie Blackmore, managing director, Selesti
Analytics should lead key marketing budget decisions and this one should be no different. Which devices are your audience currently viewing your website or campaigns with? If there’s a roughly even split then a responsive mobile site could be the perfect investment as serving your content across multiple platforms will be a smaller investment overall for a greater return. If there’s overwhelming activity on one device or your research of web users shows that 50 per cent plus own Android phones, only then would we recommend a native app.
Adam Levene, CSO, Grapple
It has fast become clear that both mobile sites and native apps will coexist and fulfill very different purposes and therefore should not be seen competitive strategies. Mobile websites benefit from the easy discovery of mobile search and are great for offering instant information but few are sticky. Native apps however, provide a slick rich experience that encourages repeat use time and time again. Our application for McDonald’s has received over 1,000,000 app downloads and over 10,000,000 mobile website visits. Despite similar functionality, customers use the mobile website to find their nearest restaurant, but downloaders of the app return frequently to access promotions and see new additions to the menu.
Mark Hadfield, senior planner, Weapon7
Brands must question their criteria for success to answer this question and decide what they want the app to achieve. If your goal is accessibility, HTML mobile sites will have the greatest reach, but don’t offer the slick, seamless experience of native apps.
A second factor is whether the brand is looking to push or pull their audience: apps can push notifications to me when it suits them, whereas mobile sites rely on me remembering they’re there.
Finally, the decision must be made whether the app needs to be available offline: apps can be engaged with when there’s no network connection, but mobile sites can’t.
This is part of a wider feature on app development published in the 28 September issue of The Drum, which subscribers can download here.