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Responsive Website or Mobile App? Making the Right Decision for Your Business

Phillip Reinhardt

Is your marketing team constantly warring with your IT department over limited resources and time? This isn’t an unusual state of affairs for many businesses, as marketers are feeling the crunch to deliver more digital experiences faster than ever before. Technology teams see the long-term impact of these decisions as well as how quickly tech is changing and wonder “Is it worth it?”. Prioritizing digital marketing projects continues to be a challenge, which leads us to the question of the day. If you had to choose, would you rather create a native mobile app for your business or a fully responsive website? The path that many organizations are following may surprise you.

Mobile App Development is NOT Accelerating

In the last few years, the percentage of traffic from mobile devices to most websites has jumped from around 25 percent to 50 percent, yet many large organizations still aren’t jumping on the mobile app bandwagon. Why not? Gartner recently shared a surprising statistic: in the last twelve months, more than 25 percent of global enterprises have not built, virtualized or customized a native mobile application. Part of this slowdown is due to the perceived value of mobile applications by overworked corporate IT departments. Infrastructure and operations development are receiving the lion’s share of the resources, and tech teams are loath to allow marketers to take over control of these mid-range projects.

Does this signal the end of native mobile applications? Not even close.

Apps Are Ideal for Small to Medium Businesses

App Usage By Individuals

With nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population tapping away on their smartphone on a daily basis, the drive for mobile apps continues unabated in the small- to medium-size business market. These more nimble organizations use apps as a way to connect directly with local users and may offer enhanced functionality that takes advantage of the app’s interaction with the user’s mobile phone. Loyalty programs are also a big draw, as users actively search for ways to save money. Is a mobile app right for your business? Here’s some considerations for going the native app route:

  • If your audience is age 35-40 or younger, they’re more likely to be open to trying native mobile apps from their favorite brands
  • When your app rewards repeated activities or provides added value on a daily or regular basis
  • You want to offer augmented reality experiences
  • You want to offer deeper personalization or functionality tied to your audience’s phone

Tying in to the calling, navigation and other innate smartphone functions are difficult if not impossible from a responsive website, but are easy as pie when you’re developing a native mobile app.

When Responsive Wins

Sure, mobile apps are cool — and yeah, they give you another avenue for discoverability within the app store. However, there are times when the added expense of having an app on top of your fully responsive website simply isn’t worth the effort or expense. Mobile apps are notorious for needing upkeep, and depending on your development platform you may have to create multiple versions for Android and Apple devices. The plethora of screen sizes can really be an issue unless you’re careful, with the customer experience suffering on anything but the “ideal” phone size. If you don’t have the marketing budget to drive significant downloads of your app and you’re simply building a native app version of your website, you’re probably not going to see the return on your investment that you’re expecting.