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Riddle me this: Mobile site or app?

Do I want to fill up space on my phone with an app that I use to pay a bill once a month?
Do I want to fill up space on my phone with an app that I use to pay a bill once a month?

I recently saw ads touting apps for State Farm and GEICO apps. they both let you check your policy and pay your bill.  This made me ask myself, “Is this an app I need? Do I want to fill up space on my phone with an app that I use to pay a bill once a month?”

Seriously, how often do you visit your car insurance website? If you are on autopay, like me, you never visit. So, why get the app?

App is the new “viral video”

I think the term “app” has become the new obsession of the “boss.”

A few years ago, I would sit in marketing meetings where people would talk about the impossible task of creating a viral video – “We need a viral video! How do we create one?”

Now that statement has been replaced with “We need an app!”

The thing most companies actually need is a mobile website. 40% of the world’s population now has Internet access, but a huge number are mobile-first or -only. If you haven’t already made a mobile version of your site, now is the time (especially because Google now penalizes sites in mobile search that don’t have a responsive site).

Unfortunately, “mobile site” – for whatever reason – does not have the cache of “app” to those who don’t know what they are talking about.

All of those people using the web on their phones are not downloading your app. If you don’t make a mobile version of your site, they won’t be visiting that either.

Arrgh! No more apps - get away! Shoo!
Arrgh! No more apps – get away! Shoo!

Why do I want your app? 

Downloading an app requires investment in several ways. I have to find it in the store, waste my battery downloading it, and then it takes up screen space and storage on my phone. For all that, I had better use it for more than paying my monthly premium.

In the article “Mobile Apps or Sites? That is the Question,” Jonathan Allen, director of Search Engine Watch, notes:

“Apps such as Instagram or Layar provide specific experiences that can only really work via a mobile. They live in your phone and you can go back to them time and time again. The trick is to build engagement in your app so that the consumer keeps coming back.”

Adam Singer, product marketing manager at Google Analytics, recommends creating an engaging site, build a relationship with customers and then introduce an app. He notes:

“You don’t want consumers to install your app and then never use it again because if that happens, then you have failed…If marketers are set on rolling out mobile apps, they need to make sure that it fits their consumers’ needs, as well as engage with the audience on a brand level.”

As the article notes, it is best to think of mobile sites and apps as an “and”, not as an “or.”  However, if you can only choose one, I’d go for the mobile site any day of the week.

What are your thoughts on mobile sites vs. apps?


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