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The difference between mobile and app – why businesses do (or don’t need) their own app

The question every digital agency is getting asked more and more frequently by their clients is: ‘Do we need an app?’. With mobile internet usage increasing the question is bound to arise with websites needing to deliver increased mobile functionality – especially for display on the smaller screens of mobile devices.

So, with small screen in mind – let’s take a look at the big picture. 297 million smartphones were sold last year out of a total of 1.6 BILLION mobile phones. In 2010 there were a total of 8.2 billion app downloads worldwide which is set to rise to 17.7 billion in 2011. The worldwide revenue for this is estimated to be $15.1 billion in 2011 with the major players in the market being Apple, Android, BlackBerry App World, Microsoft Market Place, Nokia’s Ovi Store and Samsung Apps.

So with these figures we can see how getting a piece of the mobile app market can be tempting. But a mobile app needs to be seen for what it is – a marketing tactic – it’s not a digital strategy. A good digital strategy is all about communicating with your customers in an uncluttered way – and a mobile app can form part of that. But it’s by no means an end to itself. ‘Clients need to decide on their goals before committing to a mobile app,’ Brownstone’s Managing Director Dave Jabbie advises. ‘What we’re talking about here is a user experience and it’s important to decide what kind of experience you want your customer to have – and also to understand what it is they are looking for in terms of that.’

If you only launch a new product say once every two years, then a mobile app would not be a cost-effective or even a strategic option as your customers will only download it once during that period. ‘You would be much better off with a robust mobile site,’ Dave adds. ‘Digital agencies need to be giving their clients the proper advice here. Yes, businesses need to consider going mobile, but pushing them towards an app may not necessarily be the right answer. For many businesses a well-designed mobile site is every bit as effective.

‘The other consideration is how you want your customers to connect with your brand. Properly utilised, apps provide a feature-rich experience. Think about how you want people to interact with you – apps can open up an entire new experience for your client base.’

Apps do need to form part of a clear digital strategy. ‘It’s a question of focus on three key areas,’ explains Dave. ‘Apps offer utility, content and entertainment. If you can’t decide between these or don’t think they apply to your business, then an app probably isn’t for you.’

‘Another consideration is that apps only work on the devices they are designed for. So we are really talking a niche market activity – which can of course we extremely profitable if you know your market – and your device. A mobile site displays great on phones but can be not-so-great on tablets.’

Apps can provide feature-rich content and functionality due to working with the specific device’s native applications. However, a mobile site is a better choice dfor delivering search-based content and also for driving ad traffic to the site.

Building an app for every device out there can be costly – plus there are on-going development costs when the app needs up-dating along with constant app store approval. Initial costs to develop a mobile site are off-set by less costs to maintain over time. And if mass marketing is your goal – a mobile site wins hands-down in terms of budget and potential reach.

‘As with any marketing tactic – an app or mobile site should form part of your integrated marketing strategy and leverage all your activities, both on and off-line,’ Dave advises. ‘Just because your competitors have an app or mobile site, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your business.’

Brownstone offer integrated digital strategies for businesses so why not talk to us about your evolving digital needs? When it comes to an on-line and mobile presence we promise to make you appy. (Sorry – we couldn’t resist the pun!)

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2 responses to “The difference between mobile and app – why businesses do (or don’t need) their own app

  1. Pingback: The Mobile Moment: A content strategy and transactional goals

  2. Pingback: Dave Olsen’s deck: Developing a Progressive Mobile Strategy « Serve4Impact

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