Is a website or app the best choice for your business?

mobile digital marketing

Businesses these days can be forgiven for asking themselves whether an app or a responsive website is the best choice for their organisation — and for good reason.

Old-school marketers will tell you that your business must have a website, and any remaining budget you have should be spent on supporting that site. So where in this equation does an app fit in, especially if you’re an SME?

After all, high quality apps don’t come cheap.

Mobile access to the web continues to grow, so as a modern-day business, where should you be putting your hard earned dollars?

Website, app or both?

Strategy #1: Website only

Depending upon your business model, the “website only” strategy can align perfectly to your business goals, however for some businesses it can also be limiting.

If you’re considering this option, the major benefits of a successful “website only” strategy include:

• The ability to take advantage of responsive website design, saving you time and money building multiple products;

• Rapid site updates without having to go through lengthy approval processes;

• The ability to develop a comprehensive content marketing strategy;

• Visibility in both mobile and standard search;

• Referral visitation from external sites;

• The ability to undertake paid search marketing campaigns; and

• The ability to undertake social media marketing campaigns.

However, if your business has all it’s eggs in the ‘website only’ basket, there are some drawbacks that can impede your growth. This includes:

• Developing a strong and effective presence in search, which will take time to develop;

• Relying on your visitors to correctly type your URL into a browser to visit your site; and

• Increased risk of exposure to hackers. 

If you’re running a business of any kind, I definitely recommend having a website, but knowing the pros and cons is a must if you’re going to successfully execute a web-focussed digital strategy. That being said, if you’re considering a ‘web only’ strategy, to make a proper assessment of this direction, you should definitely consider weighing up an ‘app only’ strategy in unison.

Strategy #2: App only

Like most people, I’m a big fan of apps. There are so many ways they make my life easier and are a lot of fun to use. But from a business perspective, how do they stack up?

If you’re considering an “app only” strategy within your business, there are certainly a number of benefits this strategy can bring to your organisation, but there are also a handful of areas you can find yourself missing out on valuable points of enquiry.

The benefits of an ‘app only’ strategy include:

• A smoother user experience;

• Access to your app where no active internet connection exists;

• Access to “mobile only” features;

• Visibility on the world’s largest app stores (Apple and Google Play);

• Apps can be developed in HTML5 from a single code base for Android and iOS;

• Access to paid app-store marketing (i.e. Apple Search Ads); and

• Visitation from app search listings in Google.

However, as great as apps are, as a core business marketing tool they do pose some challenges for business owners. This includes:

• Limited search engine traffic;

• The cost of development is usually higher than a website;

• Apps can limit you to a specific device if you fail to build two native versions or a single HTML5 app; and

• Apps must be downloaded to be used, which creates a barrier between use and enquiry.

What about supporting an app and a website?

In my experience working with numerous companies to develop their digital strategies, and having built stand-alone websites, apps and digital strategies that complement each other, I can conclude the following:

• Companies that succeed at offering a ‘website only’ strategy do well when they have an aggressive content marketing strategy backed up by strong design and at least one strong social channel;

• Companies that successfully offer an ‘app only’ strategy usually support this with strong multi-channel social media, a single page brochure-style website to deliver a basic web presence, and use other forms of media such as television, print or email direct marketing; and

• Companies that offer a web and app strategy generally succeed when they have the resources to market each component as per the the previous two points, and are competent cross-channel marketers. This means supporting their website from their app and vice versa.

And the winner is …

So which is the best option? Well unfortunately there’s no one size fits all solution, however, if do have the resources to support your business with an app and a website, this will obviously outperform a single strategy.

The key to successful digital marketing whether you’re offering a website, app, or both is quality marketing and regular updates of your product and content.

Each vertical without doubt has certain marketing channels that work better than the other, so when deciding which vertical to choose make sure you take the time to understand which marketing channels are really going to work for you and focus your efforts aggressively across these channels.

Bonus tips

We’ve spoken a lot about the value of marketing and selecting the right marketing channels for your vertical, but there’s one key ingredient which will make or break your project: the quality of your product.

If you’re looking to cut corners with your app or website, the results will reflect this. The companies we see that manage to achieve success, and we’re talking on a local level, are companies who do the right things day-in-day-out and do not cut corners. Typically, they:

• Regularly work with a trusted development partner;

• Are focussed on quality content, imagery, and regular update their products;

• Do not spread themselves too thin and produce low quality output as a result; and

• Focus on what they do best and avoid trying to become a ‘jacks of all trades’

If you’re looking to develop an app or website, the good news is you can achieve strong success with either platform. The key is consistency, quality of service, and an understanding of where to focus your marketing efforts.

Both apps and websites can provide a great deal of value to your business, you just need to know how and when to use them. Regardless of your industry, you can use either platform successfully, but you have to be willing to market your product and update it regularly. I would argue this is easier in the web space, but there’s also more competition.

What do you think?

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4 years ago

The responsive website approach can double as an ‘App’ if you go about it right-however for obviously commercial biz’s, such as food people, apps can work really well more so than a website. Businesses which are ‘information rich’ do well with websites.