Is Mobile Web an Adequate Mobile Strategy?

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A modified version of this article was originally published by Digital Marketing Magazine.

We’re doubtless all aware that every successful retailer needs a mobile strategy. Across the world, mobile is rapidly overtaking desktop as the preferred way to access online services, not just among younger people, but among all demographics. Customers are increasingly turning to mobile devices instead of laptops or desktops when they want to make purchases.

This Black Friday, mobile sales surpassed $1billion in a single day for the first time. According to a recent Adobe report, “retailers stand to lose billions of dollars in sales if they don't get their act together.”

This Black Friday, mobile sales surpassed $1billion in a single day for the first time.

But it’s not enough to make your website mobile-friendly and call it a mobile strategy. You need to do more than that. Sure, a mobile website is the best way to reach new customers, because it’s always accessible via a search, but for maximum impact, you need a mobile app as well. The same Adobe report stresses that Amazon and eBay, with their slick, personalised apps and easy-to-use integrated mobile payment systems, are rapidly establishing a massive lead over retailers who are only partially embracing mobile. Here’s why.

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Apps drive loyalty

While casual users will always go to your website, your most loyal customers will usually prefer an app. Having your icon on their home screen is a constant reinforcement of your brand, and that means that you’re their go-to choice when they want something. Instead of expecting your customers to open a browser then search or find you in their bookmarks, you’re always just one tap away.

Instead of expecting your customers to open a browser then search or find you in their bookmarks, you’re always just one tap away.

Marketing strategists Criteo report that mobile web shoppers browse just six items, put an item in the basket 15% of the time, and complete 44% of purchases. By comparison, when using a mobile app to purchase from the same sites, shoppers tend to browse 22 items at a time, add something to their basket on 24% of visits, and complete 55% of their purchases.

In other words, apps generate nearly twice as many sales per customer as mobile web.

Apps offer better UX

Let’s face it, a lot of mobile websites suck.

Users hate having to scroll around the page, zoom into images or small text to see what they’re doing, and use an interface designed for keyboard and mouse. Even sites that use adaptive layouts can often be frustrating on a small screen. Over 35% of users quit because of poor navigation.

Over 35% of mobile Web users quit because of poor navigation.

Apps are specifically designed for touch-screens, and use the full range of mobile UI options such as swipes, gestures or voice input. App navigation and layouts are optimised for the mobile device, making it smoother and faster, and performance is up to 50% faster as well.

You don’t need to replicate everything on your website: streamlining your app to provide easy access to the most often used features will create an even smoother UX.

Apps offer greater functionality

Mobile devices can do a lot of things that desktops and laptops can’t do, and most mobile Web sites don’t take advantage of that. Thanks to location, integration with cameras, and easy sharing with other apps such as Instagram or messaging, mobile apps can be much more powerful and fun to use than mobile Web.

Mobile devices can do a lot of things that desktops and laptops can’t do, and most mobile Web sites don’t take advantage of that.

For example, US beauty chain Ulta allows customers to scan the barcode of any item in their range and immediately see all the product reviews. Cosmetics chain Sephora lets customers take selfies and try on different makeup. Coupons are super easy to do in mobile apps, which makes the in-store experience more enticing.

Make your apps fun and engaging as well as functional, and users will keep coming back.

Push notifications are superior to SMS or email

All marketers are painfully aware that most customers hate getting commercial emails. According to Pushwoosh, only 5% of customers will opt into your email lists, and only 2% of those who actually open your emails will click through.

With in-app notifications, typical opt-in rates are around 70% - over 80% on Android - and CTR is over 20%. That makes them by far the most effective customer communication tool at your disposal.

Having an app boosts your SEO

Google loves mobile. You probably already know that if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your search rankings will be penalised. You may not appear in mobile searches at all. But did you also know that if you have an app, your rankings will go up? Our data shows that your site will get a boost of between one and four places, just for having an app in the app stores. That alone makes it worthwhile.

It really shouldn’t be an either/or when it comes to apps and mobile web. Your mobile strategy needs to include both.