You just got a great email offer from a brand you like—a big discount and free delivery. Score! To cash in, you just have to download their mobile app and do your shopping there. For some people, downloading a whole new app to shop with is no big deal. But for a certain portion of consumers, every time a new brand pushes their mobile app it causes an eye roll and the exclamation, “another app?!”
Most consumers already have a lot of apps—somewhere between 60 and 90, on average. And frankly, the lion’s share of them are neglected. Statista found that 77% of the time people spend on apps goes to the main three they use, nearly half of that going to just one. And 37% of respondents in one survey say they’re uninterested in downloading a new retailer’s app because they already have too many.
While it’s undeniable that people spend a lot of time on their smartphones and using apps, that doesn’t translate to meaning they’ll want to download and regularly use your brand’s app.
To be clear, for some brands building an app makes sense. But it really depends on your business, what you’re selling, and whether it will meet any real consumer need. Before you jump on the app bandwagon because you’ve heard it’s what you’re supposed to do, consider a few reasons not to make that app.
5 Reasons a Mobile-Friendly Website Can Beat the App
1. You have a brand or product that doesn’t require frequent interaction.
When you think about the apps you regularly use, they likely provide the kind of functionality that you need (or want) to use on a regular basis. If your brand sells a product people only need to buy once every few months or renew once a year, visiting your website to do that makes more sense than downloading an app for something they only do now and then.
Review and analyze how often repeat visitors come to your mobile-friendly website, and the kind of engagement they show when they do. If most visitors are only dropping in periodically and taking simple actions, an app isn’t necessary.
2. Your mobile-friendly website provides plenty of convenience.
No one’s denying that you need to provide visitors with a great mobile experience—that’s 100% necessary. But for many businesses, you can do that just as well with a mobile website as with an app. According to research from App Developers, 41% of users won’t ever use an app over a mobile website, and another 50% will only do so if the app provides a superior experience.
In other words, almost no one’s going out of their way to download an app for something that a website accomplishes just fine. Analyze how people use your website now. If their interactions with it are basic, then ensuring those actions are easy to complete on your mobile site makes more sense than building out a whole separate app for them.
3. You can’t afford to build a good app.
Any business that builds an app must make user experience a top priority. For an app to make sense, it has to be easier to use than your mobile website. But designing an app that provides an intuitive user experience isn’t cheap.
ThinkMobile reports that app development typically costs between $100,000 and $500,000, and even simple apps with only basic features run $10,000 to $50,000. If the app you have in mind is at all complex, making sure it’s easy to use, loads fast, and provides all the functionality you want will be costly. If you can’t afford to do it right, then you’re better off not sinking thousands of dollars into an app no one will want to use anyway.
4. You’re not prepared to provide the level of data security required.
You have a responsibility to every customer and visitor that shares personal information with you. Building an app is expensive enough to start with, but making sure it’s secure enough to protect your users’ information from cybersecurity threats adds a whole extra layer of difficulty and expense. A Positive Technologies report found that 76% of apps have issues with insecure data storage that can be exploited by hackers. If you build an app that collects sensitive information, investing in security is crucial, but difficult.
That said, it’s equally important to make sure your mobile website is secure. But you’ll need to invest in security for all versions of your website whether or not you build a mobile app.
5. Your audience isn’t mobile.
This point won’t apply to a lot of businesses; a huge portion of the population now uses mobile devices with great regularity. But it’s not universal. Pew Research data shows that 81% of people in the U.S. own smartphones. That sounds like a lot but that means 19%—close to one out of five people—still doesn’t own a smartphone.
If your target audience disproportionately includes that 19%, then investing in an app that only a small portion of your audience can even access makes little sense. Pew Research helpfully breaks down the demographics of who the smartphone users are, so you can check it against your audience personas. Non-smartphone owners include:
- 21% of those aged 50-64
- 47% of those over 65
- 34% of those who didn’t graduate high school
- 29% of those who make less than $30,000 a year
- 29% of those who live in rural areas
The way marketers (and everyone else) talks about mobile devices, it’s easy to forget that smartphone ownership isn’t a given for the entire population. Before you sink money into a mobile app, think about who your customer base is and whether they’re likely to have smartphones and use them regularly.
Mobile Matters, but It’s Not All About Apps
Marketers shouldn’t neglect mobile. Do make sure you’re offering a good mobile experience to your customers. And if you do have a website or product people pull up regularly, or interact with in ways that are more difficult to do on a mobile-friendly website than an app, an app may be right for you.
But don’t assume. Assess the needs and habits of your audience and make sure you make the choice that makes the most sense for your customers. As with so many business decisions, start by thinking of the end user— not some general advice about what businesses are supposed to do based on trends.