To paraphrase wrestling legend Roddy Piper: ‘Just when they think they have all the answers, I change the questions’. Leave it to a man in a kilt to perfectly capture a business landscape where technology moves so rapidly, the questions change more quickly than the answers. Just look at mobile strategy. A few years ago, the question was ‘do we?’ Now? It’s ‘how do we?’ and that leads to a pivotal question each business leader needs to ask themselves – do we need an app?
There’s no easy answer.
It takes analyzing your audience, your goals, your budget and how quickly you plan to launch. If you reflect on the important factors and find that a responsive designed mobile site will suffice for your (and your client’s needs) then that’s the avenue you should take. But it’s more than worth exploring whether an app could change the way you do business and reach your intended audience more effectively.When debating a native app versus mobile optimized site or web-app (and it’s not necessarily either/or), here is what you should consider:
1. Where is your audience?
If you don’t already, using a tool like Google analytics or subscribing to OneFire's detailed analytics reports to learn about your website audience is essential. But beyond that, you’ll want to figure out who your audience is and – more importantly – where they are. Marketing on Old Media (radio, TV, newspaper) definitely has a place. But more and more people are now mobile, using smart phones and tablets for everything from banking to booking flights. If your audience is mobile, you need to be too. Meet your audience where they are. The next step is finding out whether your audience utilizes apps and would be likely to download yours. When building an app, it’s important to establish a need that’s being met. In most cases, a native app can cut navigation steps out of a process and make things simpler and more efficient for you and your client. What will your app do? That leads us to…
2. What functionality do you need?
There are plenty of technical reasons that can factor into a mobile site vs. native app and we’ll cover a handful later. But most importantly, if you’re building an app, you want to establish what it will do differently than your site. While a mobile site will faithfully recreate what your desktop version does, an app can potentially cut out the extra stuff and streamline whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. Take Dominos Pizza and their new voice-ordering app (cutely named ‘Dom’). It made ordering pizza somehow even easier and provided a function it’s site couldn’t (voice recognition). It’s only one example, but it’s easy to see that Dominos had a particular functionality in mind, designed to cut out more steps in the ordering process, and an app met that need.
3. How much can you spend?
Ahh, the brass tacks. Even if your audience uses apps and you’ve identified what yours can do for them, your budget still has a say. No matter what, it’s important to establish a mobile strategy for your business. Your budget should reflect that. If there’s money, but not enough to consider a native app, direct it toward ensuring that your mobile site functions well. There are few things more frustrating than battling a website on a smart phone or tablet that hasn’t been optimized. It’s an avoidable headache and makes sure that potential buys are not being turned away at the door on their platform of choice. A few things to consider in the cost of a mobile site vs. an app: native apps are going to incur the cost of specialized development needed to get approval from app stores and to achieve compatibility on different devices. Mobile sites have less red tape involved and are easier to upkeep.
4. What is the turnaround time?
Mobile sites are much quicker to develop and deploy. While apps take longer to launch, it all depends on what the long term strategy is. That involves a long view on what an app will do for business and whether the cost and turnaround time is worth the unique experience your app can bring to the table (or tablet).
There are many factors to consider when discussing the need for a mobile app and the good news is that the Strategy team at OneFire is available to help you think through the use-cases within your organization. Just connect with us to learn more.