Published: 08 July 2014

It’s a question that’s been around as long as there have been mobile apps and mobile web – about 10 years (not including the calculator you got on your first Java based phone!).

Lots of clients ask us this question and we have delivered both simply because there is no right answer to this. Take a look at the latest statistics, more and more consumers will browse mobile sites rather than use brand specific apps but, based on the top UK ecommerce sites, consumer conversion rates are higher on brand apps than on brand websites[1]. However, we predict that this trend will change and conversion on mobile sites will rise above those seen historically on apps. This is a pattern we can already see with some high street retailers.

What we do know from research and from our own client base is that mobile web experiences need to be sharper as sessions are generally shorter and so the customer needs to be focused on the conversion sooner. There are a myriad of different reasons as to consumer device choices based on their location, context (home, work or other) and what’s available to them, what’s important is that this is all recognised and the customer experience is tailored accordingly.

Key areas of concern for mobile web users are the payment pages – many ecommerce stores take their customers to third party payment gateways (e.g. SecureTrading, PayPal, Sagepay or Worldpay) and, surprisingly, a number of these are not optimised for mobile. Consequently, customers fall at the last hurdle. This is one area where mobile apps can out perform their web counterparts as payment is integrated into the app experience.

Interestingly, according to Google’s own insight service, physical barriers to mobile commerce (or m-commerce) account for fewer failed transactions. So things like small screen size, low battery or dodgy reception are not as big a problem as poor mobile product information or poorly optimised payment experiences[2].

In summary then, brands need to ensure that their mobile apps and mobile web experiences are on a par as both have a place. Apps area great for brands with high levels of loyalty and the budgets to invest in remarkable user experiences from first search to payment confirmation. Mobile websites are still the most cost effective way for brands to enter m-commerce and are certainly in the ascendancy but more care and attention must be paid to ensure that your mobile experience is designed for mobile conversion.

[1] – 14th May 2014
[2] – UK data for 2013

Nick Towers

Managing Director


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