• Developing an app for the sake of it isn’t going to provide ROI
  • Understanding what you need to achieve enables you to prove the value an app can bring your business.
  • Your traditional competitors aren’t going to be your only app competitors. Think about app-first companies too.

Why develop a mobile app?

If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that your business is already considering developing a mobile app. But you’re here because you’ve still got some unanswered questions. Like is an app the right way to go? Or why will an app be better than a mobile website? Somewhere, there’s still the question of app vs web. Or simply Why develop an app?

You’ll probably also be aware of the need for businesses to innovate and evolve for their digital customer and employees. But maybe you’re unaware of all the opportunities and possibilities a native app could bring over other platforms.

Don’t create an app for apps sake

A quick disclaimer. We may be a big believer in apps, but we’re not always going to tell you that launching an app is the right decision for your business. The way people use apps is very different to the way they use websites. And if your business offering or processes aren’t adaptable to mobile then don’t force them. Too often we see companies replicating their websites within a mobile app. Or breaking an already successful process just for the sake of building an app. This isn’t going to bring success or achieve ROI.

Developing an app requires an in-depth understanding of your end-users’ wants and needs. An app needs to provide value that goes above and beyond what’s provided through the web. We touch on this in a separate piece called The App Experience. Where we go into more depth about defining users needs and mapping the customer journey.

But for this article, we’ll stick to the basics of app vs web.

Firstly, what do you want to achieve?

Developing a mobile app or expanding your website can solve a multitude of problems. But when we’re considering an app versus a website, we need a better understanding of your goals. Are you looking to better engage your customers or employees? Or create new revenue, speed up processes or increase loyalty? Mobile apps can help in many different ways compared to a mobile website.

By looking at what you’re aiming to achieve, you can start to see where mobile is more beneficial than a website. Let’s take ‘speeding up processes’ as an example. Delivery drivers might have printouts of their delivery and collection forms for each job they do in a single day. At the end of the day, they have to return to the office and submit all the information they filled out on the paper forms. In this case, a native mobile app would be an ideal solution. Delivery drivers could fill out job data throughout the day whilst out and about.  

Another example looking at how to increase loyalty. The majority of retailers have online stores, and many are now launching apps. More and more people are shopping on-the-go and want to engage with their favourite brands whilst out and about. Apps are ideal for this situation. Enabling customers to access product details and store information from anywhere. Brands could even use push notifications to let users know of sales or special offers. As well as providing a personalised and unique experience.

Apps support task orientated users

In both examples above a mobile website wouldn’t be as efficient as a native mobile app. In both cases the user is on-the-go with a specific task in mind.

As mentioned earlier, we use apps very differently to how we use websites. Apps are handy tools we keep in our pocket that help us to achieve something quickly and efficiently when we need to. Whereas websites (both mobile and desktop) are better suited to a browsing experience. When we are at our desk or we’ve got time on our hands to browse.

We often explain to clients that the best apps are those which have purpose. That solve a specific business issue and have outcomes that support business goals. In fact the most successful apps are those developed through outcome driven innovation. Where the user’s unmet needs drive the app value and featureset.

And it’s here, when you have a clear idea on what you want to achieve to hit business goals, you can pinpoint where mobile will provide value over web.

App vs web: The differences

As we mentioned above, apps and mobile websites solve a variety of different challenges. Technically they are very different and from a usability point of view also very different. To make it easier to see, we’ve outlined the differences below for you…

App vs Web: The Pros and Cons

Mobile Website pros and cons

  • PRO: Low barriers to entry
  • PRO: Easy and quick to set up
  • PRO: Depending on complexity, tends to be cheaper
  • PRO: Supports SEO
  • CON: Only works online
  • CON: User experience tends to be lower (loading speed)
  • CON: Always in pocket but not front of mind

Mobile Apps pros and cons

  • PRO: Works online and offline
  • PRO: Stored on the device for optimum user experience
  • PRO: Always front of mind on app screens
  • PRO: Make full use of the device (e.g. location, camera and push notifications)
  • PRO: Mobile-first user experience
  • PRO: Ability to personalise
  • CON: Complex systems
  • CON: Costly
  • CON: High barriers to entry

So, is a mobile app better than a mobile website?

There are high barriers to entry with mobile apps. It’s not as easy as putting one live and hoping people will find it. User retention is a big challenge with apps, if the user doesn’t like it, it gets deleted. And once it’s deleted, that’s it. Regardless of how much they love your company.

However, when a business gets an app right, the results are staggering. And the opportunities they present are much larger than mobile web.

For retailers, new research by Criteo shows that users view 4.2x more products per session on apps compared to mobile sites. And have 3x higher conversion rates.

For enterprises, internal apps can improve employee productivity by up to 40%. Primarily because they allows employees to complete tasks on-the-go.

And as a general note for all businesses, research from Compuware highlights customer preference is in favour of apps. With a total of 85% preferring apps ahead of mobile sites.

What are your competitors doing?

A large indication as to whether your audience are ready for apps is to assess the competition. And we’re not just talking about your direct competition. Think about mobile-first businesses that provide the same solution. For example, if you’re a high-street bank, don’t just look at your high street competitors. Look at the online-only challenger banks, and the app-first financial planners. Alternatively, if you manage a hotel chain, don’t just look at other hotels. Look at mobile-first booking sites, package holiday companies and even AI travel agents.

What do their apps offer that their website don’t? How do they improve the users experience? Are they offering something of value in addition to their main service or product?

Even if you can’t find your competitors app, chances are they’ll be having a similar discussion. They might even be prototyping ideas already.

So, why should you develop a mobile app?

At this stage you should have a much clearer answer. You should have an answer for the app vs web debate and understand why an app is the right thing for your business. Ultimately it comes down to your business goals. And how an app could solve your specific challenge. Apps may be more complex and more expensive, however when they are done right they can truly transform your business. Putting you at the forefront of your industry and prepare you for tomorrow’s mobile-only users.

As we progress through 2018, creating engaging digital experiences will become essential. As customer expectations continue to increase so will competition. It’s here where apps can give your business the lead and help you succeed in an increasingly mobile-first world.

What to do next?

We recommend you take a look at how to approach app development and best practice to create the right app experience. It might also be worth looking at the options you have for mobile app development. For example should you develop a native or hybrid app? and should you develop an Android app or iOS app first?

Alternatively, we’re here to help. Drop us a message and we’ll provide more insights.


1. Mobile app vs mobile website statistics 
2. Customers favour apps over mobile websites