Why listening to your users is the best mobile strategy

One of the areas most businesses struggle to define a clear strategy for is mobile. Not only is it a very fast growing channel, it is also one that offers users different options, the key one being do you choose a mobile site or a mobile app? Is one better than the other? What are the differences? And, how do organizations decide which one is right for them?

The truth is that there isn’t a simple answer to these questions; there are strong arguments for and against both mobile sites and apps, making it extremely difficult for firms to define a strategy, but it’s not impossible. The key is to listen to your users.

Mobile App vs. Mobile Site.

According to Morgan Stanley almost 90% of the growth in mobile traffic is being driven by the mobile web, with apps trailing far, far behind. The mobile web is so alive that Google announced last year that it was changing its algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites.

Despite their growth, mobile websites are finding it hard to engage users for more than a few minutes at a time. Mobile web users are not only impatient, but also notoriously fickle. According to McKinsey, 61% of mobile users won’t come back to a mobile site they had problems with, and 40% will gladly visit a competitor’s site.

On the other hand, app users are mega-loyal. According to one study, mobile users spend over three hours a day in apps, as opposed to 51 minutes on mobile websites. On a monthly basis, users spend some 18 x more time on brand apps than they do on brand mobile sites.

But, on the other hand, app users are a tough crowd. 69% of users open an app ten times or less. And of 5 million + apps available for download at last count, very few actually get used. 25% of people use an app just once after downloading it, whereas 50% of app usage time for smartphone users is spent on their most-used app. This is great, but only if you’re Facebook or Instagram.

Listen to your customers.

The key thing to remember is that people have, and will exercise, free will. All organizations have to do is watch, and adapt to people’s actual behavior. 

Each organization will need to analyze its customer base and its behavior, and develop a strategy that suits them best. For example, if you’re a fast food retailer with thousands of local bakeries, there’s next to no chance that your ‘Best Bakery’ app will get used. Since you run a business that expands greatly via walk-in traffic and word-of-mouth, and that relies heavily on location services you should be aware that 80% of “near me” searches happen on the mobile web and that sharing the URL of a great chain of bakeries is easier than sharing info about an app. So, the choice is clear. Invest in a great mobile website.

However, if you run an online food delivery company that connects restaurants, employers and customers for either eat-in, pick-up, or delivery dining, you’ll have to take a different approach. With an app, the path to purchase is faster and smoother, and location-based promotions are seamless and proactive. Engagement is deeper and more ongoing, and support overhead can be lower.

Don’t Decide. Let Your Users Tell You.

As any navigation app will tell you - to understand what your next turn should be, it’s important to know where you are. You understand the nature of your online business – but do you know exactly what users are doing on your mobile website or in your mobile app? Adopt strategic tools that can closely monitor user experience, behavior, and state of mind across all platforms. Then, prioritize your next steps according to what your users are telling you.

All you have to do is watch.

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