Are you undecided between using a mobile website or a mobile app for selling your products on mobile ecommerce? The case for using either is very strong. Websites have been around far longer than mobile apps. On the other hand, mobile app use is growing with each passing year. Although both are used to sell ecommerce products, there are several important differences between the two. A thorough understanding of these will help with your choice.
The Mobile Website
Unlike the mobile app, a mobile website doesn’t require you to download a piece of software into your mobile device. For the person unfamiliar with your company and therefore noncommittal to buying from you, asking them to download an app in order to browse your products or check your prices will probably turn them away. It’s too much of a bother when they can quickly browse websites instead. Therefore, a mobile website works best for acquiring new customers.
Another key difference is that websites have been around far longer than the mobile app. For now at least, people expect businesses to have a website but don’t have the same expectation about having a mobile app. When they first hear about you, they won’t comb through the app stores in search of your app. Instead, they will look you up online.
Getting exposure is more cost-effective with a mobile website. One mobile optimized site will work on all mobile devices with a popular browser installed. On the other hand, each mobile operating system requires a separate mobile app. An update on a website is a simple affair because unlike an app, it doesn’t require a software download for viewers to see it. The Internet has a number of traffic sources of which search engines and social media are the most notable. Search engines automatically index new pages on your site, and some SEO effort can bring a lot of traffic.
Setting up an ecommerce website need not break the bank. A popular open source content management system combined with a reasonably priced mobile e commerce theme can get you started quickly and economically. Apps are software requiring the coding skills of a specialized developer and are therefore a bigger investment.
The Mobile App
While the mobile website interacts with a browser, the mobile app interacts directly with the mobile device in the same way that any piece of software interacts with a computer. This means it can essentially do anything, including interacting with the inbuilt devices. These include GPS, camera, motion sensors, and microphone. The camera is useful for barcode and QR code scanning, while the motion sensors and microphone may be used as additional forms of user input. The GPS is useful for helping the customer locate a nearby store outlet. The use of these devices is only limited by the developer’s creativity.
Because mobile apps are downloaded once (except for updates), users are reasonably patient with download times. This means the app can provide a richer and more engaging user experience than is possible with a mobile website which must load quickly. Interaction with the installed app will often be quicker than is possible online because there’s no Internet connection lag time.
All the points made so far about mobile apps suggest that they are best used for adding value beyond what is possible with your mobile website. Therefore, mobile apps are useful for retaining and increasing customer loyalty. Loyal repeat customers cost one sixth the amount to retain than acquiring new customers. They also add stability to your business. This reason alone is justification enough for augmenting your mobile website with a mobile app.
So the question isn’t whether to use a mobile website or a mobile app. It’s whether to use a mobile website alone or in combination with a mobile app. The answer depends on the nature of your product/s and market. Are your customers normally one-time buyers or repeat customers? Do you have a solid concept behind your app? How will it help and enhance the customer’s experience?
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