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Going mobile: app vs. mobile ecommerce website for your online store

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E-commerce has cemented itself as the primary mode of purchase for all but perishable and extremely time-sensitive products (and it is even making headway there). We can reliably say that consumers have shifted toward the convenience, choice and accessibility of online transactions. However, e-commerce itself is starting to evolve. M-commerce is the next great trend.

For many, m-commerce seems like a natural branch of e-commerce. Of course people will buy from their mobile devices. What may be more shocking is the incredible growth of the percentage of sales that now come from mobile. In 2010, a mere 3% of purchases came from smartphones and tablets. That number jumped to 11% in 2012. This year, conservative estimates project it reaching 15% or more. As the popularity of the mobile ecosystem in general continues to skyrocket, so too will the number of purchases made from a mobile platform.

It is apparent that there is more to m-commerce than simply using a browser on a phone to buy products. However, the strengths of m-commerce can basically be summed up as a distillation of the strengths of e-commerce itself. Mobile devices allow for unprecedented convenience and accessibility while offering all the choice of the world wide web.

People are constantly using their smartphones, and those services that make it convenient for consumers to purchase wherever they are remove barriers and increase conversions. In the past, if you saw something you wanted to buy while browsing your phone, it was a pain to purchase it. You’d have to remember it for later. With mobile apps and mobile-optimized ecommerce websites, people are making more positive impulse purchases than ever before, which is great news (particularly for niche online store owners).

So the question that many owners and strategists seem to be asking is, “Which is better: a native mobile app or a mobile-optimized website?”

That debate may rage for quite some time. However, the best answer is very likely: both.

Why? Because while a mobile-optimized site and a native mobile app seem very similar initially, they actually fall at opposite ends of the sales funnel. A mobile website serves its purpose best when a person is searching for a product. It is much easier to stumble on or otherwise become aware of an online store if they have a mobile site.

A native mobile app, on the other hand, derives its value from its deep integration into the core system of a smartphone or tablet and its ability to inspire return customers. For instance, a mobile app gives storeowners the ability to bypass the clutter of email inboxes or Facebook feeds and send a message directly to all of their users. They can even send deals or coupons that can be instantly redeemed through a mobile device. And, of course, they enable people a direct and secure way to make purchases from a store. Mobile apps are beneficial for building and nurturing a loyal following of customers.

Fortunately, both native mobile apps and mobile-optimized websites are more affordable than ever before. So what do the numbers look like from an end-user perspective? According to a 2012 survey, 62% of consumers made purchases through a mobile browser versus 38% through a mobile app. However, those who shopped through an app reported being significantly more satisfied with the experience. Most online stores haven’t attempted to create an app yet, so offering a combination may be the best way to take your business mobile and increase sales and customer satisfaction!

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  • Bill Widmer

    Agreed. I can’t find this anywhere.

  • R

    Hi Stephen,

    Can you tell me where the 2012 survey that you quoted is published? “According to a 2012 survey, 62% of consumers made purchases through a mobile browser versus 38% through a mobile app.”

  • M

    Great article! I completely agree, mCommerce walks hand in hand with eCommerce and using it properly will catapult your business into a whole different level but not everyone has caught on yet. Even though the survey showed a more promising result for the mobile browser, I myself prefer the mobile app due to its accessibility and features that it has to offer.

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