The emergence of smartphones and tablets has forced marketers to alter their commercial strategies, based on the growing number of users. In order for companies to compete, they need to adjust to this technological development: ecommerce has been taken to the mobile level. For the majority of companies, this means that a key decision should be made: should you use a mobile website or a mobile app?

First things first: it is important to make a clear distinction between the two in order to make justified decisions as this will affect the course of your company’s mobile commerce strategy. In that regard, let’s clarify the most important differences between the two:

Mobile website
A mobile website is basically a website that is completely adjusted to mobile specifications and optimized for usage. Also, users can visit a mobile website by using a web browser on their device. Examples of mobile optimization include (but are not limited to):

–          Consistent web design: Consistency is important for a company’s branding strategy as it boosts brand recognition, which means you should use the same theme for your mobile website as you do for your desktop website. However, the design should be adjusted to mobile requirements, e.g. making sure the navigation runs properly.

–          Faster page loading: If you were to use the desktop design for a mobile website, the page loading time would be significantly long. If users find a page that takes a very long time to load, they are likely to exit the page, without ever viewing the content. By simplifying designs and layouts, you can prevent this from happening.

–          Simplified visuals: Visuals are important as they appeal to users in a way that words can’t. This is why you need to include them on your mobile website, but simplify all visuals to shorten page loading time.

Mobile App
Mobile apps are downloaded to a smartphone or tablet and sometimes at a price, depending on the app and developer. There are two different mobile app developments to choose from: a native app and a hybrid app. Allow me to briefly describe the apps.

According to eConsultany.com, native apps make use of the phone’s features, for example, the camera. The apps don’t always require an internet connection to function and can be distributed to the app markets. Moreover, it fully integrates into the device it was downloaded to as it depends on the device’s features.

eConsultancy also states that a hybrid app uses both native app and mobile websites qualities: it’s a native app that uses embedded HTML. It’s downloaded to a mobile device and uses its features, but in contrary to a native app, it always requires an internet connection.

Now that the differences have been explained, the next step is to decide what’s best for your business. In order to do this, you need to consider a few factors:

–          Determining target group and mobile usage: First, you need to research your target group and their mobile usage. Acquire statistics about their preferences. For example, how often do they download apps? Or do they prefer web browsing? What are the frequencies? These are just a few questions you need to find an answer to.

–          Resources/budget: The development process should be supervised and led by a competent team of developers and designers. However, it’s understandable for a small company to have a limited budget, which is often a reason to choose a mobile website development. If you think the benefits are worth the investment, a mobile app could be considered. Conduct proper research regarding all this data.

Based on the research results, you can decide what will work best for your company’s mobile commerce strategy. The development of the apps or the website is the next logical step and you need to ensure that all aspects have been covered. Your goal should be the enhancement of the mobile user’s experience, which will ultimately lead to sales.

What do you think? Do you prefer mobile websites or apps? Tell me about it in the comments!