Deciding whether your franchise needs a mobile app or a mobile website to maximize your internet marketing potential is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Here are the pros and cons of each, and when they make the most sense for franchisees.
What are mobile apps and mobile websites?
First, let’s cover some basics. A mobile app is an application that you build that customers then download to their device. Apps are a completely optimized mobile experience and generally have some offline capability. They are usually downloaded through Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. Popular apps include:
- Clash of Clans
- Facebook Messenger
A mobile website is a website that only appears on mobile devices and is generally a stripped down version of a full site. Their URLs tend to start something like “mobile.” or “m.”. Facebook’s would be http://www.m.facebook.com.
Mobile websites are accessed through an internet browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) and require an internet connection. Banks, for example, often use mobile websites (although they are shifting toward apps).
Now that we have a better idea of what we’re talking about, let’s get into what it means for marketing your business.
Mobile apps: pros and cons
First, the pros. Mobile apps can be used to create a great user experience, and give you the opportunity to leverage all the capabilities of devices. In short, they’re generally better at being used how users actually want to use them.
For example, mobile apps can make excellent use of gestures on a phone, so using the app feels more natural for users. Another example is when apps use push notifications, a communication mechanism, specific to a device (and a powerful business opportunity to drive high engagement).
Mobile apps can also be used to store data about the user, as well as data to work offline. For example, Instagram can take, edit and tag photos offline, so as soon as people get back online their photos are ready to post.
There are some downsides, though.
Apps require the extra step of being downloaded to a phone or tablet in the first place. Also, because apps are stand-alone software, they can cause conflicts on your customers’ devices and create a poor product by crashing and breaking unexpectedly. Finally, apps usually require more resources, both to build and to keep up-to-date.
Get an app if…
- Internet marketing is a critical platform for your online business or franchise
- You have a strong web presence and SEO otherwise (so you can get people to download it)
- You have the resources to both build and maintain it
Mobile websites: pros and cons
Mobile websites are a slightly different beast than apps. First, they work in existing browsers, which means that as soon as a customer searches for your company from a mobile device (presuming your SEO/search engine optimization is up to snuff) they’ll end up at your mobile website.
This makes driving users to your mobile site much easier than getting them to your app – you just have to continue your search engine optimization and search engine marketing. No need for a dedicated ‘download our app!’ marketing campaign.
What’s more, you get a lot of the benefit of an app without the hassle. For example, a huge benefit of an app is that you can provide your customer with the information they want on-the-go, front and center. You can do that on a mobile site, as well.
For example, a bank’s main home page might have all the services that bank provides, but their mobile site is essentially a big log-in screen for mobile banking – because usually when someone is checking their bank on a phone it’s to see how much money they have, not to research long-term investment options.
However, a mobile website does have some downsides. Apps will usually provide a better customer experience for those who download them, and a mobile website has limited or no offline capabilities – a distinct disadvantage.
Get a mobile website if…
- You want to have an easy job maintaining your digital marketing tools
- Your target audience historically does not show interest in downloading or using mobile app
- You don’t want to invest the capital needed for app development and maintenance
Mobile apps and mobile websites are both good options for reaching your customers through mobile devices. The important thing to focus on is providing at least some specialized mobile experience. With mobile devices making up an increasingly important piece of internet traffic, it’s no longer just a nice to have – a good mobile experience is critical to the success of your company. However, how you provide it is entirely up to you.