Over the past year, the development of mobile apps has been slowing down with the emphasis on improving the user experience; quality over quantity is the name of the game.
Recently, Flipkart, India’s e-commerce giant, announced a partnership with Google that introduces an app-like mobile website called Flipkart Lite, coming only six months after announcing a new app-only mobile strategy. The mobile browser experience works on Google Chrome and takes advantage of its newly available set of app-like features. Does this move towards the “app-like” mobile browser experience indicate the end of apps altogether?
Flipkart’s move from an app-only to a mobile website-dominant approach is mainly due to accessibility issues and the decline of m-commerce apps.
Apps can be device-dependent (platform, version, etc.), which may narrow its audience reach significantly. The mobile web, on the other hand, is an easily-accessible environment that allows publishers to tap into a much a wider range of audiences, across all demographics. Google's approach to opening the overly-gated mobile web development space, through its Chrome browser's open API, allows publishers to create websites that are not only as attractive as native apps but also take full advantage of the mobile device and the unique, personalised experience that mobile is today.
The App Vs. Mobile Browser Experience
When considering how to best create a mobile experience, publishers should consider all the factors that encompass creating both an app and a mobile site.
Comscore notes that only 25 apps are used per month, per user and 80% of their time is spent on their top three favourite apps – Facebook, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger; implying that apps are competing for a small slice of the pie right from the get-go.
The discoverability factor of an app can be a challenging one since there are no current content search mechanisms in place for apps due to device and standard fragmentation. With that in mind, apps can also be extremely expensive to promote - especially in Western countries, where reaching a top 10 App Store spot can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, significantly limiting app exposure.
Developing a mobile site that provides a high-level user experience with an app's “look and feel” and the customisation that mobile screens and usage patterns call for requires intensive design, UX and IT support that includes worldwide server distribution and ongoing maintenance and upgrades, which can be expensive for any publisher supporting these internally.
An optimised mobile solution requires expertise in both UX and monetisation; containing a sleek, dynamic design that is created with monetisation in mind from the onset. Working with a third party that has a knowledge-base, user-data access, successful track record and support team in place can be a game-changer for mobile developers aiming to lead the pack. For publishers, specifically, it is important to work with a third party that offers a 360-degree solution that provides them with brand control, cross-channel cohesiveness and provides a clear, transparent monetisation solution.
Google will obviously benefit from a shift in traffic from apps to the mobile web, but that does not necessarily say that apps will be eliminated any time soon. Major gaming and utility game publishers will be around, making millions off of their games and re-investing those funds into app promotion.
For smaller publishers this is not quite an option. For content publishers, this approach would not be advisable since users simply don’t consume news from apps today - their main source of news is Facebook, followed by Twitter, and then other social channels. What publishers need to be concerned about is the landing page they provide for social platforms- their own mobile sites.
When considering the benefits and pitfalls of choosing between creating an app/mobile web site it is crucial to keep in mind that both will significantly impact a mobile strategy and bottom-line results. A cross-screen strategy is a major component in advertising precision as it allows for cross-device ad targeting, which could enormously affect monetisation results.
The ecosystem today is one that demands easy accessibility and high-performance across all screens, while learning individuals' usage patterns, across these mediums, accurately profiling him. Each one of publishers’ digital environments caters to different audiences and different usage patterns. A mobile strategy that allows for quick and smooth transition as users move about their everyday activities will be an effective one.
Now you choose: are apps a thing of the past or a compliment to the wider, more comprehensive digital strategy of the future?