Mobile App vs Mobile Website – Which is Right For Your Business?

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If your online business does not currently have a mobile web presence, you’re likely being pressured to do so as soon as possible. And rightfully so. A recent Google report cites that smart phone penetration has reached 56% of the US market and that 46% of those users have made a purchase on their mobile device. If your business hasn’t gone mobile yet, at the start of 2014, then you’re passing up on a massive opportunity. However, navigating the options for going mobile can be a bit tricky. While there are several decisions you will need to make, the first and most fundamental is “Does my business need a mobile website or a mobile app?”

Mobile Apps

Mobile applications are programs that are saved to a mobile device’s storage and can be used offline. Mobile applications must be designed and developed for the mobile operating systems you wish it to operate on, whether that includes Apple’s iOS, the Android platform, or both. As a result, preparing a mobile application for your business can be quite time-consuming and expensive. It’s a big project, but can be worth it for marketable apps.

“Mobile apps are most successful when they provide real, innovative value to users by leveraging the functionality of their mobile device, said digital trends expert and CEO of Blue Fountain Media, Gabe Shaoolian. “A device’s camera, specific GPS location, audio recognition, bar/QR code scanner, and much more can all be used to provide hyper relevant and engaging content to your audience via a custom developed mobile application.” Ikea’s Catalog app is an example of great mobile application that utilizes device functionality.

The app allows users to snap a photo of their living space and superimpose potential Ikea purchases into their own room to see how they would fit. The application provides real value to the user by delivering a unique furniture browsing experience right into their own home.

Amazon’s Price Check app is another example of a successful app that leverages device functionality well.

Price Check enables users to scan products with their smart phones in competing stores and compare pricing to Amazon’s products.


Mobile Websites

However, in the vast majority of instances, mobile applications are not actually the best way to market your business to mobile users. Usually, most businesses merely need to provide a decent mobile experience on their websites. If your website is your best digital selling tool and you do not need to leverage any mobile device functionality, then preparing a decent mobile website experience is a superior option to building a mobile application.

Many business owners feel their full HTML site still provides a decent user on mobile devices. And while the site may still look nice on a mobile device, it almost certainly will not perform as well as a mobile-optimized website. Larger buttons and calls to action for finger tapping, increased spacing between elements to avoid tap conflict, and quick load times are all examples of elements that are included in a mobile optimized website. By launching a mobile optimized website, your business can experience an increase in page views, decrease in bounce rate, and increase in conversion rate across visitors from mobile devices.

There are a few options in optimizing your website for mobile devices. The two most popular options are:

Create a separate mobile website with its own URL – A common example of this is a domain like, that you redirect mobile visitors to. This is a mobile variation of your site that you can use to prioritize content and structure for mobile recipients. However, redirecting users to a mobile variation of your website can be a pain and can be unfavorable to search engines.

Create a responsive website – A responsive website is the preferred option for delivering the best experience to mobile users. A responsive website enables you to host a single website on a single domain that automatically adjusts to browser width using CSS3. With a responsive website, you can avoid the hassle of redirects and also deliver users the most consistent experience from desktop, to tablet, to smart phone.

Here’s an example of fully responsive website, Starbucks:


In the end, there are several options for going mobile. And while you should certainly be in a hurry to take advantage of this massive opportunity, be sure to take the time to discover which option is best for your business. You certainly don’t want to start throwing your marketing budget at a solution before knowing if it’s the actually the right mobile option for your business – whether that includes a mobile application, a mobile variation of your website, or a fully responsive website.


Image Credits: Blue Fountain Media

Adam Torkildson
Adam is the owner of Tork Media. He writes on Marketing, PR, PPC, Native Advertising and how these all interact with each other on sites like Forbes, SocialMediaToday, SEJ, Examiner and others.
Adam Torkildson
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  • Ashley

    If you can afford to not have to make the decision, I say appreciate the power of having both a mobile app and a mobile website.

    Both a mobile app and a mobile website have their place. Customers and prospects simply have different intentions when using both. Sure, if you’re on a budget, you need to match a choice based on business objectives. But if you are serious about marketing and engaging with your customers wherever they choose to interact, they you will integrate both a mobile app and a mobile website into your content marketing and customer engagement plan.

  • Naveen

    Both Mobile App and a mobile site are essential to grow your bussiness. OLX is the great example as thier app used by many to sell their products

  • Peter Faulkner

    Mobile may be great for consumer but many B2B large product range eCommerce site are totally unsuited to Smartphone usage for anything other than light viewing. I believe that phone web traffic volumes are overhyped by the inclusion of tablet devices also using the same software architecture/products.
    It is of course very important that these B2B sites work effectively on Tablets, as they are really becoming endemic in business life, at this point. I check our sites on an old 15” monitor and clean tidy design/layouts that appear good on this monitor also work very well on Tablets! It is a pity website designers/builders all appear to use the latest and biggest screens they can get their hands on!!

  • André van Ramshorst

    Good article, thanks. I’m wondering where your following statement is based on:

    “However, redirecting users to a mobile variation of your website can be a pain and can be unfavorable to search engines.”

    In my opinion it’s better to have a separate mobile site because search engines will check en rank better.

  • Spook SEO

    I’ve been to Philippines last December 2013 and I can the biggest tv network on their country uses both of them. They uses their mobile apps for some entertainment and their mobile website for the late viewers. That make sense.