Getting a new mobile app into the wild can be challenging, especially when targeting a diverse audience that use many different devices. One common question we answer as a digital agency is whether to build a native app, a mobile app, or both. Unfortunately there’s no magic formula for arriving at this answer, but it’s good to start thinking about user’s needs and how they relate to a mobile rollout strategy.
Aside from critically important factors like user experience and usability, the launch point needs to support the ultimate goal as a business, which is likely centered around conversions. A while back, there was a study that showed Android users converted equally between native and web apps, but iOS users were a different story, with native apps converting as much as 30% higher1. This of course should not be taken out of context, because each industry and target will have unique characteristics to consider. For a targeting a retail customer, some platforms are more prominent, so choosing a platform may not exclude the target. Also, making an application available to many platforms certainly has it’s advantages, but marketing it outside popular app stores may not bode well without a good launch strategy.
“faster product delivery, more effective products, and bigger yields”
Time is another factor. Generally speaking, native apps have a longer time to develop, and by effect are more expensive to the product owner. In many cases, beginning with an online version of a mobile application can have several efficiencies, because the same system can serve not only mobile devices, but also full websites. If an app needs to be in both places, this may be a first step, followed by a push to the application marketplace. But how many users can be reached? By getting the right message to the right people, the cost of development will be far outweighed by the benefits. There’s merit in taking user feedback from usability tests, focus groups, and multivariant testing. A good way to fine-tune feature priority is through end-user discovery.
So when deciding if your team needs to build a mobile web and/or native app, we borrow a page from Agile product development. Leverage can be made along the evolution of a product or idea as it is developed, and seeing a plan out iteratively also nets better results overall; more effective products, faster product delivery, and bigger yields. Launching your application should never be intended as a monolithic block of effort. So then it comes down to knowing who it is you’re speaking to, and how you can best serve them effectively.
1. Mobile commerce, David Eads – http://blog.mobilestrategypartners.com/2011/05/15/mobile-web-is-only-half-of-retail-mobile-commerce/