App vs Website: The Best Option for Ecommerce Businesses

App vs Website: The Best Option for Ecommerce Businesses

How can you optimize your online store and turn your visitors into customers?  Which one should you choose: an app or a website? Our guide will help you decide. 

Mobile apps are taking over the digital world: they are becoming more and more popular. Since 2017, more than 50% of web searches or page visits are generated from mobile devices. It’s safe to say that every business has to put their focus on the mobile platforms (depending on the operating system), yet there is a decision to make. Should you create a mobile app first or should you optimize your website for mobile?

Let’s see the differences from the perspective of an ecommerce business.

Benefits of an app

Every app has its purpose:

  • You can order food if you want
  • Share a picture
  • Watch videos
  • Send money
  • Count your steps
  • Or read a book. Looks easy, doesn’t it?

Most of the time, you can use these apps when you’re online. 

But let’s see the other side, what can you do if you didn’t have an internet connection:

  • Take a note
  • Play a game
  • Manage your finance and outcomes
  • Or use a part of an online app, which you’ve downloaded before.

Mobile app vs website (desktop): the data

In 2017, mobile traffic took the crown: but did you know that in 2013 only 16% of the total traffic was generated by smartphones? It’s a 222% increase in just 7 years. Desktop usage decreases, which seems to continue with the emergence of 5G and free mobile hotspots. 

Let’s be clear: this data is about traffic, and you don’t need a mobile app to generate traffic from smartphones and tablets. A well-optimized website can be as efficient for your company just as a great mobile app, especially when running an ecommerce business.

Along with that, ecommerce web development prices will be on the lower side compared to app development.

Online retailers have more traffic from mobiles, but more significant sales on desktop. This is the only part of the internet (including social media, browser searches, news, etc.) where the desktop is unbeaten and more effective. 

People tend to use their smartphones to simply kill time and to keep themselves entertained. People are curious, they want to know everything about your new product, but they don’t want to buy them while getting the tram from work. Purchasing is a process that needs time to think through.

On the other hand: more than 90% of mobile device use is spent on apps: and people don’t download ecommerce apps, except when they need them. 

Of course, it works differently in every industry:

  • Food-providing companies don’t have anything to worry about: people order with mobile and most likely will download the mobile app too.
  • Fashion is also popular and has higher traffic to conversion rate and more chance of impulse purchasing
  • Objects or services with a higher price seem to look less efficient on mobile devices
  • And so does the travel industry: people need a desktop to see through the offers: prices, hotels, parking, maps, etc.

Web app and mobile app: types and differences

There are apps that you can’t download because they run within your browser. These are called web apps, while mobile apps are downloaded and installed from an online store like Google Play or Apple Store. The cool thing about the apps is that you can track your revenue by tracking metrics like cost per install.

iOS or Android? It doesn’t matter when you are about to decide. However, it’s nice to know that 74.5% of mobile devices are running with Android while 25.15% of smartphones use iOS to keep us entertained.

1. Web apps

Web apps are different from websites: they are more functional and interactive. Websites (like Wikipedia) give you information, but a web app (like LinkedIn or Facebook) provides interactivity. 

Don’t let the word “app” fool you: as we have written above, you don’t need to download something to consider it an app. 

Web development is the easiest, yet the most basic formula to test your idea.

2. Progressive Web Apps

A web app lacks some abilities while native apps have a broader scale of tools to reach the users and lure them back to the website. 

But a Progressive Web App can smarten up your web app and transform it to (almost) a native app. Of course, it’s not going to be as fast, beautiful, and responsive as a native mobile app, but it can serve your company well.

To fully understand this, you have to learn the advantages and disadvantages of every application type. 

Progressive web apps are like mobile apps but in a browser. Visitors can add your page to their home screen and read the site later when offline. And the best part: you can send push notifications!


  • Fast to launch. It takes only a few steps to upgrade your web app to a progressive web application
  • Easy and cheap
  • Coding skill is not required
  • Push notifications, offline sessions, Add to home page
  • Users don’t have to update manually


  • Not available in Google Play or Apple App Store
  • Lack of functionalities only available in native apps

3. Mobile apps

Mobile apps are downloadable applications from the stores mentioned above: Google Play, Apple App Store, or other 3rd party app stores. Marketers use these spaces to optimize mobile apps through ASO by making them more visible to their target audience.

There are two kinds of mobile apps: native and hybrid apps. They share most of their advantages and disadvantages, but there is still a big difference between them.

In general, creating a mobile app is better option for branding, they’re faster than the web and can use most of the functions of a smartphone: like camera, microphone, or your saved pictures.

4. Native apps

Perfect for push notifications and more. According to some research, using push notifications can increase the chance of launching your app by more than 80%

In the age of social media, sharing is everything: everyone wants to share a good topic, a fantastic picture, and a great product as soon as possible. No one wants to copy links but to do this with one tap. Furthermore: it’s not about just sharing. Almost everything runs faster while using an app than using a desktop.

Apps can be easily monetized (websites too) with big numbers of generated traffic. An app that people use every day has a great potential of making good money out of it. 

People use the apps 6 times more than they use the browser on mobile phones. 

However, ecommerce businesses are different. 

If your shoppers don’t use your app every day, or even weekly, but they only come to shop one or two times a year, then mobile app development is pretty useless in your case.

Because it cost a lot of money even to keep your app up-to-date 

Apps for iOS and Android are coded in different programming languages. So you need an iOS app and an Android app for these platforms. That means even higher costs. 


  • People can find it in app stores
  • (Potentially) faster
  • (Potentially) Better UX/UI (user experience, user interface)
  • Push notifications


  • Monetizing traffic
  • People want new versions, updates
  • Users may have to update manually


  • Software development takes a longer time 
  • Has to be optimized for iOS and Android
  • The cost of development is high

5. Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are written in one codebase and they implement your website content (and web design) to a downloadable app. So like this, you create responsive websites with an app that works cross-platform. This can save you money and time, but you need to sacrifice some of your UX and page speed for this. 


  • Easy to create
  • Cost-sufficient
  • Still interactive


  • Slower app speed (because it’s browser-based)
  • Worse UX

Which one is better for an ecommerce business: an app or a website? 

Now it’s time to make the big decision: which one to choose? 

Shopping can be impulsive, but there are many types of online shopping and it’s hard to achieve to give your customers the right pieces of information at the right time. Online businesses have to present their product or service most efficiently and transparently. And you can do this better on a desktop website – and people purchase more on a desktop website

Phones have smaller screens, thus limited, but you want to give the users the same amount of information they get from a desktop website. 

These functions can quickly increase your costs. But you have an easier way: import mobile-friendly 3rd party apps, like OptiMonk:

  • Your customer is leaving the cart: you can do something about it!
  • User is hesitating: promote a product with a great offer
  • Recommend other product
  • Collect e-mail addresses and phone numbers
  • Show your product availability

You have thousands of possibilities to use and keep your customers’ loyalty.

Pro Tip: You can find some valuable software service providers or a software development company.


In many industries, people will pay for the product on desktop anyways: they need bigger screen sizes. The traffic to conversion rate is not that high in online shopping to build an app at all costs. Find a solution that suits your company most efficiently. 

What we recommend:

A website and a mobile-friendly website are very different. Build a mobile-friendly website for better SEO and better access to content. Generate traffic by searches and social media. Make the “scrollers” to be your customers: highlight your product’s most significant values and advantages with OptiMonk plugins in your online shop.

You don’t need an app first. There are exceptions, of course: a takeaway food service needs a good native app. But if your customers don’t buy online from you at a regular interval, you don’t need an app. 

Spend your money wisely. That’s our advice for small businesses.

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