Native app vs Mobile web – How to plan your Mobile Strategy

“It’s not a competition between native apps and the mobile Web,” says Tim Kadlec, a consultant who has advised large corporations on mobile website design, wrote the book Implementing Responsive Design, and is now employed at Akamai as Web technology advocate. “I think most companies probably need both. The website expands your reach. It allows you to get your company’s content onto a wide range of devices, in front of everybody.”

Apps, on the other hand, target users who are looking for very specific information or who want to purchase your products or services. With apps, you can create a very focused and customized experience for your power users.

Rather than typing in a search term, mobile search is often by voice.

Mobile Strategy:

Who are your users and what do they need?

Where speed is critical or particular actions are specific to a device, the functionality is built directly into the app. “If we want to really provide a differentiating experience on the apps, we do that native to the platform,” says Natarajan. But for functions that are common across all platforms, such as checking the status of your order, QVC uses a hybrid model. “We leverage [the work] others have done on the mobile website to show up on the apps,” he says. “But the experience is very seamless. The customer doesn’t see a difference.”

Other companies rely exclusively on their mobile website. Virgin America has no app, says Mike McGuire, research vice president, Gartner for Marketing Leaders. “It’s one of the very few airlines that don’t, but they argue that they don’t need it,” he explains. “With the evolution of HTML5 tools and the practice of responsive design, they believe they can get the functionality they need.” After all, designing and maintaining apps for multiple mobile platforms is an ongoing investment in time and money.

Where are your users?

Indeed, accessing the Internet from a variety of places within a variety of contexts on a variety of screens is becoming an “omni-channel experience” that enterprises will need to accommodate, says Gartner’s Wong.

Is your team organized correctly?

Even when an organization has a mobile strategy, it can be hard to implement because of the silos that often exist in large companies. They don’t have the technology people working with the marketing people.

Technology and marketing needs to work together.

Designers and Developers need to work together.

What platforms are in your future?

Mobile is no longer just about smartphones and tablets, but wearables and other devices that are becoming Internet-enabled. “You want to think in terms of your consumers interacting with your brand in any way possible,” says Natarajan. That means building a robust back end and abstracting it from the user experience so that it can be used to serve a variety of platforms. Make sure data and images aren’t tied to one particular device platform.

“You know tomorrow you’re going to have three new platforms that you’re going to need to serve,” says Miller. “Today, it’s the smartwatch; tomorrow, it’s the refrigerator door.”


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