According to Forrester Research, 74% of retailers had mobile strategies in place in 2010 and that grew to 91% by mid-2011. In addition, 56% of online shoppers who own a mobile device say that they use it to research or buy products.(1) Implementing mobile commerce is no longer an add-on, it’s a must-have component to any successful commerce strategy. That means that the question is no longer “when” to go mobile, but “how?” Here’s what you should consider:
What will your customers actually use?
If your customers are choosing between your app and “Words With Friends,” will they keep yours on their screen? Are your important enough to your customers for them to search and download your app proactively? Apps can provide rich, interactive user experiences that leverage the device, but only if the consumer downloads your app.
How often does the experience need to be updated?
Does the experience need to be interactive? Utilize geo-location capabilities? Available when not connected to wi-fi? How long will the content of the application last before you need to provide an update for download? With a mobile site, content can be continually updated and improved.
What is your budget?
Native applications are becoming more costly to develop because of the proliferation of mobile devices in the marketplace. Make sure you have the resources to provide a rich, interactive experience where your customer interacts with you most.
In short, the answer to the mobile web versus mobile app question is: it depends. However, retailers that ignore mobile-optimized sites do so at their own peril. Even those with strong app engagement rates will have customers in the marketplace that simply search for their site via Google. Once they arrive, they’re expecting a useable web experience and if they don’t get it, they’ll abandon and move on to a competitor. Therefore, it’s critical to serve up easy-to-use mobile experiences, whether that be through a mobile site or responsive design, and that you keep up with customer preferences, wishlists and items in cart across devices.