The Mobile Matchup: Apps Versus Web

Limited budgets are something most marketers have to deal with. So, it’s vital that they dedicate their dollars to areas that drive results. One area many marketers are looking to invest in is mobile marketing. But mobile can be tricky, particularly when it comes to deciding whether to allocate funds to mobile apps or the mobile Web.

To get to the bottom of which one consumers prefer, mobile technology company Quixey hired PR agency SHIFT Communications to survey U.S. adults about their mobile interaction habits and engagement preferences. Based on the responses of 1,059 respondents, here are the pros for each of the two main mobile touchpoints.

Mobile apps: Features, functionality, and the user experience

Sometimes mobile apps provide content that consumers can’t access via the mobile Web, notes Quixey’s VP of Business Development Maxine Manafy. This can be a huge draw. About one third (34.4%) of respondents cite features and functionalities as the main reasons they prefer using mobile apps, and 28.4% say the user experience is their favorite part—with the latter figure rising to 69.5% among millennial respondents. 

“When you look at a mobile application versus mobile Web, you might actually see a much richer user experience,” Manafy says. “You might have deep functionality, [a] more sophisticated state, and end users actually like that and prefer it.”

Mobile Web: Central access and consistency

Still, only about 12% of respondents would download an app if they could access the same features and functionalities without having to do so. After all, drained device storage (26.1%) and slow and clunky performance (23.6%) are respondents’ top qualms with apps.

Mobile Web provides a different experience. According to the study, not needing to alternate between multiple apps (10.6%), not needing to install anything new (23.3%), and having access to content all in one place (32.5%) are what make mobile Web so alluring. In fact, when looking at millennial respondents specifically, that last perk jumps to 74.8%.

“In today’s mobile environment a lot of people prefer mobile Web because they know it, it’s very familiar, and they think they have access to everything in one place,” Manafy says.

The winner

So, which mobile experience should marketers focus on? Manafy says both, arguing that mobile apps are going to be a more crucial touchpoint in the future.

“Most end users are used to mobile Web because their first active point is to browse around on the phone or the device,” she explains. “That’s going to change. And because end users are downloading a large number of apps on their phones or on their tablets, they’re using apps more directly. That said, I don’t know that, as an end user, we’ve figured out where everything is yet. So, today, it’s important to address both.”

Advice for the future

For marketers looking to prepare for this shift towards apps—should it occur—Manafy recommends diving deeper into what’s important to the consumer, not just in terms of functionality, but also in terms of ad and content relevancy. This tidbit is especially potent given the current state of ad blockers.

According to Quixey’s data, consumers say they use ad blockers because ads interrupt their experience (29.9%), they slow down their experience (14.8%), and they are irrelevant (10.1%). And even though there’s a generational divide between those who use ad blockers and those who don’t—83.8% of adults 18 to 34 use them; 83.1% of those 45 to 64 don’t—Manafy says that relevancy is important at any age.

“What we did hear is [that] users don’t mind ads when they’re relevant,” she says. “So…what age you are [doesn’t matter].”

To achieve relevancy, Manafy suggests conducting user-testing, working with ad blocker companies, and analyzing organizations that haven’t been blocked. As Manafy points out, relevancy is always, well, relevant. “Relevance never changes,” she says. “If you can continue to improve that experience and make sure it’s always relevant, that’s probably not going to change much in the future.”

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