Written by Matt Simmonds
Sep 01, 2014

Mobile app or responsive site: 10 things to consider

Native mobile app or swanky responsive website?

10 things for you to consider

Decisions, decisions. ‘Who should get the allocated parking spaces outside the office?’ ‘How should we replace our dying and possibly hazardous coffee machine?’ ‘Our primary colour photocopier had a regrettable meeting with the aforementioned coffee machine, should we rent or buy a new one?’

Each day entrepreneurs, directors and business owners are confronted with a multitude of decisions from the mundane to the momentous.

At Brightec, we’re probably the wrong place to come to for photocopier or parking advice (though we do love coffee). One decision we can assist you with is the frequently debated question - Native mobile app or swanky responsive website? 

Here are 10 things for you to consider:

1. What’s the goal(s) of your business?

Now, let’s begin at the beginning. Obviously every major (arguably minor too) business decision should at some point pivot back to this question. Who are we and what are we trying to do?

Get an app because it’s the right thing to-do, not because it seems like the hip thing to do.

2. Who are your customers?

Who makes up your current and potential audience? How do they currently engage with your brand / product / service?

It maybe that getting your customers to migrate to a native mobile app is like herding cats in boats up a steep hill. For instance, if you’re primarily marketing to Eskimo pensioners their access to and usage of smart phones may be limited (though apparently Vodafone’s coverage is much improved these days).

"Getting your customers to migrate to a native mobile app maybe like herding cats in boats up a steep hill"

3. Are you making assumptions?

However, make sure you don’t make assumptions about your customers shopping habits. If you can measure, then measure. Check your analytics and find some relevant customer research. Also, be aware that customer behaviour is evolving all the time.

Not that long ago buying a holiday would have been a shop front experience in a high street travel agent; then it become a mail-shot brochure experience; then a web experience and now a mobile app experience (read our Case Study of Lowcost Holidays to see how travel companies are making the shift to native mobile apps).

4. Are you getting lost in the bustle?

Inboxes can be your worst enemy. The daily bombardment of offers, social notifications, scams and parent’s cat pictures drowns out what you may believe is the ‘most important email of their day’. Don’t be another note in the white noise.

Native apps allow you some visibility. Once downloaded your snazzy little icon can sit shining in their middle of their screen, or at least, can wave eagerly from the back row. Also, some cleverly tuned notifications can keep your customers involved much more directly.

5. What’s your budget?

Building a responsive site is going to be cheaper. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Even sites like Wordpress now offer free responsive themes. You’ll struggle to find an app developer that can match those rates (though your teenage nerdy cousin may give it a shot).

Of course, the old adage remains - ‘you get what you pay for’. We’re not monkeys (though we do like peanuts).

6. How do you attract new customers?

If your customer acquisition strategy is built mainly on a well refined SEO approach then a responsive site maybe the best ploy. Native mobile apps live in a ‘closed environment’. Of course it’s not quite North Korea but all the same you won’t reap the same search rewards as a responsive site may do.

Having said that relying solely on SEO isn't advised, a native mobile app can be a straightforward way to add to your marketing mix.

7. How important is User Experience to you?

Some may quibble with this point, but the UX benefits of a native mobile app far outweigh those of a responsive or mobile ready website.

8. How simple are you?

Sorry, we’re not calling you stupid (not yet anyway) but it’s worth being aware that adding a mobile app to your marketing mix adds another level of complexity to your strategy.

Do you now promote your website or the app? Who is going to keep the app updated? Having a dusty and out of date app/website is often worse than not having one at all.

9. What do you need to know about your customers?

Obviously you’ll want to know as much as you can but what do you actually need to know? A native mobile app allows you more access to more detailed information about your customer than a responsive site.

10. Why not have both?

If budget and infrastructure allows, this maybe the obvious solution. Have a native mobile app AND a responsive website. Duh. However, make sure you answer the questions we’ve posed above first.

For a more detailed look at ‘buying on mobile’ then read our recently published research here: http://www.brightec.co.uk/blog/buying-mobile