Tame the Mobile Web vs. Native App Debate

February 10, 2016
Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

Should you dive head first into building a native app? Consider these two criteria.

Although the “app economy” has been a boon to consumers, it has been the cause of headaches and challenges for mobile marketers needing to drive significant business value. Do I build a mobile-optimized website or a native app? It is less an either/or question— the key is clarifying your mobile-marketing engagement requirements and then matching mobile marketing strategies to those requirements.

Mike McGuire, research vice president, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, noted that mobile marketing journeys start for the marketer with the customer or prospect: How do they use, and how do they want to use, mobile devices to engage online?

The answer, while not easy to implement, is straightforward:

You need a mobile-friendly site as the entry ticket to the world of search to determine what role a native app can play to support frequent engagements.

Prioritize a mobile-friendly site

According to Mr. McGuire, the mobile Web is your face to the world of mobile users who have a search engine on their device. More searches and email opens are happening on mobile devices, and Google announced a significant change in its algorithm that penalizes websites that don’t render appropriately on mobile devices. Once an engaging mobile Web experience is built, the next step is to seamlessly link to mobile apps or social media.

Keep the experience consistent

An app is your face to an already committed customer and can be crucial to establishing brand presence on millions of phone screens. Some apps generate significant engagement and, at companies such as Uber and Starbucks, apps are key contributors to revenue. The key is having consistency across mobile Web and the native app. The challenge of keeping the two consistent, on both the front and back ends, has been cited as a reason that some organizations have shelved their mobile apps and now focus on the Web.

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