In today’s mobile ecosystem, most companies require both a mobile website and a native app to compete for users’ attention. Your mobile website will always act as your business card, enable visitors to learn more about your company and what you offer, and make your company visible to search optimization results. But for the ultimate customer experience that boosts brand loyalty, not only do native apps have a clear advantage by offering personalized engagement, they also allow companies to leverage user data and adjust content to better serve those users.
According to Smart Insights, 51% of adults’ daily digital media time is now spent on mobile, and of that time, 90% is spent using apps. Mobile app usage has increased by 111% since 2013, with the average app user keeping 36 apps on their phone (Google/Ipsos). However, with that rapid evolution, apps must offer truly useful and engaging content to survive—nearly one in four mobile users use an app only once before abandoning it. Apps designed around user research that offer exciting features, interactivity, and personalization have a far better chance of maintaining engagement.
Looking ahead, the experience an app offers will become less attached to handheld devices and more seamlessly integrated into our everyday human experience: voice-activated interfaces, internet-connected wearables, and smart homes.
Is creating a native app the right move for your brand? Here are two questions to ask when considering a native app:
- Do you have a strong enough brand following that people will want your icon on their homescreens? If the answer is yes, go native. If no, stick with the web.
- Do you need what native has to offer in terms of UX? If you prioritize features over performance, go native. High-level functions that are necessary to win over users would be a drain on web app performance, so the web is not the optimal medium to publish those features.
Web apps are great for users looking for content they need to make quick decisions. Native apps are better suited for users who will take the time to engage in various tasks tied to your business model. While mobile web apps get more visitors, users spend significantly more time on native apps—20 times as much as web apps (ComScore 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report).
Still not sure? Here are five reasons to build a native app:
Engagement with your user base via a native app cannot be matched by any mobile web experience
A native app installed on a smartphone is physically present on the user’s device. The user can access the application at any time, in a matter of seconds. More than half of smartphone users ages 18-34 organize their apps into folders. The ultimate goal of any company is to associate its app with something a customer wants to do.
Native apps have the best performance
Native apps talk directly to the operating system, while web apps talk to the browser, which talks to the OS. Native apps are faster, more convenient, save user settings, and offer more personalized content.
Geo-location and other device-specific functions
Offering customers what they need based on location has been a growing trend over the past five years. Native apps also offer access to the smartphone’s camera, microphone, and calendar functions, just to name a few.
On the mobile web, personalized content requires user authentication. On a native app, users provide their login credentials up front at one time, and the app can use those credentials in perpetuity. Apps that use previous behavior data to recommend content within the app, or send email, in-app messages, or push notifications related to recent activity can further boost retention.
Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to exponentially increase mobile marketing opportunities. Merging a person’s surroundings with 3-D images to create a continuous view of both virtual and real worlds, AR is expected to make a bigger impact on the enterprise than virtual reality (VR). AR can help users imagine what a product will look like in their home or on their bodies before making a purchase, as well as overlay location-based information and buyer incentives.