The US population is spending increasingly more time on mobile devices with every passing year, but many businesses still struggle to decide whether they need to have a separate mobile website, an app, or both. Estimating costs as well as benefits can be difficult to do, even for otherwise savvy online marketers, according to a new eMarketer report, “Mobile Website, App or Both?: How Channel Choices Are Made.”
Two recent surveys of marketing professionals indicate that a larger share of businesses have deployed websites compared with mobile apps. In Q4 2014, programmatic advertising and retargeting platform provider Chango polled more than 500 brand marketers and agency executives in the US, Canada and the UK about their mobile marketing practices and found that 86% of respondents had mobile-optimized websites, and 76% had a mobile app. A similar skew toward mobile web was evident in a Q3 2014 survey from the CMO Council and SAS: Of the marketing professionals worldwide who participated, 75% reported having a mobile-optimized website, vs. 66% who had a mobile app.
But how many businesses have both? Survey results reported by Chango would suggest a significant number, considering a majority of respondents answered yes when asked about having a presence in each channel. However, within the retail sector at least, very few businesses have both. According to Sonia Nagar, senior director of mobile product strategy at RetailMeNot: “Out of the thousands of retailers we work with, a really low percentage have both a mobile app and a mobile website. And when you dig into who has both an Android and an iOS app, that number is even lower.”
Most businesses, particularly ecommerce players, continue to rank desktop websites as the most important channel for their business. Seventy-one percent of global ecommerce and digital marketers polled by Econsultancy and Adobe between February and March 2015 said their desktop website was their top priority. A mobile website was respondents’ second priority, and smartphone apps ranked third. Adobe contends one reason for the focus on the desktop web, and secondly, mobile web, is because most ecommerce sales are generated via websites (mostly desktop sites) compared with apps.
However, nearly two-thirds of respondents in the poll said they planned to increase their mobile investments in 2015, which will inevitably lead to questions about how much it takes to build an effective mobile website vs. a mobile app.
At this stage of the game, having a presence in at least one channel is the bare minimum for nearly all companies. Deciding whether to expand to a second mobile channel requires a rigorous examination of the target audience’s mobile behavior and needs, the resources available to build and maintain the second channel and the ability to establish a measurable objective in order to compare the second channel to the first.
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