AnalyticsActionable AnalysisMobile app vs mobile web – what’s the right answer for retailers?

Mobile app vs mobile web - what’s the right answer for retailers?

Mobile has become a powerful force in the marketing world, forcing retailers to adapt fast. This article explores the benefits of mobile web versus mobile apps in terms of investment, engagement and conversion.

Produced in association with Bijou Commerce. Click here to register for their webinar discussing the mobile web vs mobile app debate on 14th Feb.

The rise of mobile

In the past decade, there has been a dramatic shift in how consumers use devices. The average amount of time spent using mobile phones is now as high as 3 hours 40 minutes per day, and according to Nielson, 91% of adults have a mobile phone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day.

With the number of active mobile devices now surpassing the number of humans on Earth, it is fair to say that we truly have reached a tipping point. The once-indestructible desktop is being overtaken by mobile and as retargeting specialists Criteo say, “There is no going back”.

For retailers (and many others), this has led to what some have described as a ‘scramble to adapt’. The transition to mobile-first is no mean feat, requiring huge upheaval in some cases. Unfortunately, as consumer usage continues to grow, this is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. Many retailers are suffering losses in sales as they struggle to remain relevant.

The need for a mobile strategy is clear, but its implementation is not. Retailers must first decide whether to have a mobile app or a mobile-responsive site. There are significant benefits to both, and brands must know both sides if they are to make the right decision for the future.

What do retailers need to know?

mCommerce is growing, fast

A study by the Mobile Marketing Association found that in 2010, only 6% of consumers purchased products or services on their phones, and only 6.5% of retailers actually offered mCommerce sites. Now, we are seeing these figures reach as high as 50%, with the leading 25% of retailers reporting 50% of sales through mobile (Criteo).

This is set to continue rising – in fact, some are even going as far as to say that the future of eCommerce lies solely in mobile.

There are several benefits to optimising your site for mobile web:

Mobile web is easier to access

In terms of investment, mobile optimisation tends to be less expensive than creating an app. It also boosts SEO by driving traffic from mobile users, and doesn’t force the user to make a download – saving valuable memory on their phone.

There are also a significant number of people who use mobile web – 60% of people use it to search for more information about a product or service, including price, specifications and availability.

However, mobile sites can often have a significantly worse UX, particularly when it comes to checkout, and this can heavily impact conversion rates. In fact, a poor UX can result in a basket abandonment rate of around 20%. Examples of this are when customers have to zoom in to see different parts of the site, or are forced to re-enter their details.

As such, the mobile web can be seen as more of a contribution to the omni-channel experience, rather than the deal-breaker. Indeed, consumers nowadays are described as ‘channel-agnostic’. 80% of in-store purchases are influenced by digital, and 40% of purchases occur across multiple devices – proving the necessity of mobile web to facilitate consumers on the path-to-purchase.

So what can apps offer retailers that mobile web can’t?

Apps engage loyal customers

Loyal customers are likely to be the primary users of your app. They are also likely to be the ones who spend the most. As Tom Singh, founder of New Look, says:

“The easiest way to grow incremental revenue in a retail business is to get your most loyal customers to spend more.”

Apps have a faster and sleeker user interface, reducing friction in the shopping experience. Crucially, this also applies to the checkout process, which users prefer due to convenience, speed and intuition (Coupofy). The result is that apps are three times better than mobile web when it comes to converting customers (Criteo).

Mobile helps make it personal

Mobile is a great opportunity for brands to personalise their customer’s journey, complementing their efforts via channels like email and their website.

Push notifications are one the most successful way to personalise mobile channels. They are becoming “essential elements to a retailer’s toolkit,” according to AppAnnie. Netmera reported that push notifications can increase sales by a whopping 180%.

They allow brands to send highly personalised messages based on data such as purchase history and abandoned baskets. Customers can also be delivered specific messages based on location, such as a notification if the customer is near a physical branch of the shop. This can even extend to things like movement, with the ability to track when you are walking, driving etc.

When it comes to capturing the kind of data used for effective personalisation, apps blow mobile-optimised sites out of the water. Sales statistics suggest push notifications alone are enough of a reason to invest in a mobile app.

But this may be subject to change in the coming years. With future improvements to mobile browsing, users may prefer the convenience that mobile web offers. What’s more, merging technologies like progressive web apps might offer a credible alternative.


To find out more, join ClickZ and Bijou at a webinar on 14:00GMT on 14th Feb, where a panel of ecommerce and mobile experts will discuss the mobile app vs mobile web debate.

Drawing on experience from M&S, Google, Groupon, Majestic Wines, and more, they’ll be talking about topics including differing user behaviours and emerging mobile technologies like progressive web apps. Click here to register your place now.


This content has been produced in association with Bijou Commerce. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines. Views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ClickZ.


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