Ecommerce Website and Mobile App: Which One is The Best Option for Ecommerce Businesses?

Ecommerce Website and Mobile App: Which One is The Best Option for Ecommerce Businesses?

According to recent stats, mobile commerce sales accounted for 60% of total ecommerce sales in 2023, and that number is only expected to climb higher.

With smartphones becoming the go-to shopping buddy for consumers worldwide, it’s clear that mobile presence is non-negotiable for any serious ecommerce player.

The only question is: Do you go for the sleek simplicity of a mobile-optimized ecommerce website, or do you create a mobile app?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros, cons, and everything in between as we dissect the dilemma of ecommerce website vs. mobile app.

Let’s dive in!

Mobile website vs. app: what's the difference?

First up, we’ve got the mobile website.

Think of it as your virtual storefront accessible through any web browser on a mobile device. It’s like having a sleek, streamlined version of your desktop website, optimized for smaller screens and touch navigation.

With a mobile website, users can browse your products, make purchases, and check out with just a few taps – all without having to download anything extra. This makes it a highly convenient option for online shopping activities.

On the flip side, we’ve got the mobile app. This little powerhouse lives right on your customers’ smartphones, nestled among their favorite social media apps and selfie filters.

Unlike a mobile website, an app is a standalone program specifically designed for a particular platform (iOS, Android, etc.). It offers a more immersive experience, with features like push notifications, personalized recommendations, and even offline access in some cases.

Plus, apps have the added advantage of utilizing device capabilities like GPS, camera, and accelerometer for a truly interactive experience.

Pros and cons of mobile websites

In the battle of mobile website vs. mobile app, each has its strengths and weaknesses. First, let’s explore the pros and cons of having mobile websites.

Pros:

  • Accessibility: A mobile website is like a welcome mat rolled out for everyone. It’s easily accessible through any web browser on any device, making it a breeze for customers to find and browse your products.
  • Cost-effective: Building and maintaining a mobile website typically costs less than developing a mobile app. Plus, updates and changes can be made in real-time without needing approval from app stores.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: No need to pick sides in the iOS vs. Android debate – a mobile website works seamlessly across all platforms, ensuring a consistent experience for all users.
  • Search engine visibility: Mobile websites are easily discoverable by search engines, helping to boost your online visibility and attract more organic traffic.

Cons:

  • Limited functionality: While mobile websites can do a lot, they often lack the bells and whistles of a native app. Features like push notifications, offline access, and device integrations may be limited or non-existent.
  • Dependent on internet connection: A mobile website requires an active internet connection to function, which can be a downside for users in areas with poor connectivity or high data costs.
  • Less engagement: With so many distractions just a browser tab away, it can be challenging to hold users’ attention and keep them engaged on a mobile website for extended periods.

Pros and cons of mobile ecommerce apps

Now, let’s venture into the world of mobile apps.

Integrating ecommerce apps into your strategy can significantly enhance your ecommerce website’s functionality, improve marketing efficiency, and foster better communication with customers.

Here are its unique set of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Enhanced user experience: Apps offer a more immersive and engaging experience compared to mobile websites, thanks to features like push notifications, personalized recommendations, and offline access.
  • Brand loyalty: By residing on users’ smartphones and sending timely notifications, apps can foster a sense of loyalty and keep customers coming back for more.
  • Utilization of device capabilities: Apps can tap into a device’s built-in features like GPS, camera, and accelerometer, allowing for innovative and interactive experiences that aren’t possible on a mobile website.
  • Monetization opportunities: Apps open up additional revenue streams through in-app purchases, subscriptions, and advertising opportunities.

Cons:

  • Development costs: Building a high-quality mobile app can be a significant investment, requiring expertise in app development and ongoing maintenance to keep up with platform updates and user feedback.
  • App store approval process: Unlike mobile websites, apps need to go through a rigorous approval process before being published on app stores, which can lead to delays and rejections.
  • Platform dependency: Apps are platform-specific, meaning separate versions need to be developed for iOS and Android, potentially doubling development costs and maintenance efforts.
  • User acquisition challenges: With millions of apps vying for attention in the app stores, getting discovered by users can be a daunting task without a solid marketing strategy in place.

Web app and mobile app types

There are apps that you can’t download because they run within your browser. These are called web apps.

Mobile apps are downloaded and installed from an online store like Google Play Store or Apple Store.

With the rising trend of businesses creating their own apps for a more personalized ecommerce experience, the concept of an ‘own app’ is becoming increasingly popular.

Let’s take a look at the types of apps available. 

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

Implementing kubernetes workloads will help manage workloads, making your web apps more efficient.

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!

Advantages:

  • 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

Disadvantages:

  • 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. 

Advantages:

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

Neutral:

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

Disadvantages:

  • 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. 

Advantages:

  • Easy to create
  • Cost-sufficient
  • Still interactive

Disadvantages:

  • 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? 

If your primary aim is to cast a wide net and reach as many potential customers as possible, then a mobile website might be the way to go.

With its accessibility across all devices and platforms, a mobile website ensures that anyone with an internet connection can browse your products and make purchases. This broad reach is especially beneficial if your target audience spans different demographics or if you’re just starting and need to establish a strong online presence quickly.

Additionally, a mobile website is typically more cost-effective to develop and maintain compared to a mobile app, making it a practical choice for businesses with limited resources.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to foster deeper connections with your customers and provide a more personalized shopping experience, investing in a mobile app could be the way forward.

Ecommerce apps offer a level of engagement and interactivity that’s hard to replicate on a website, thanks to features like push notifications, personalized recommendations, and seamless integration with device capabilities.

This heightened engagement can translate into increased brand loyalty and repeat purchases, as well as opportunities for monetization through in-app purchases and advertising.

However, it’s essential to consider the higher development costs and longer time-to-market associated with app development, as well as the need for a robust marketing strategy to ensure your app stands out in the crowded app stores.

So, which one is better for an ecommerce business?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Both a mobile website and an ecommerce app have their advantages and drawbacks, and the best choice depends on your specific business needs and objectives.

Some businesses may find success with a hybrid approach, offering both a mobile website for broad reach and a mobile app for enhanced engagement. Others may focus solely on one platform, depending on factors like target audience preferences, budget constraints, and long-term business goals.

For ecommerce businesses looking for efficiency and flexibility in gathering and analyzing data, incorporating techniques of web scraping using R can be significantly advantageous. By extracting critical market insights and consumer trends from various web sources, companies can tailor their platforms, whether app or website-based, to better meet user needs.

Ultimately, the key is to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose the solution that aligns best with your overall ecommerce strategy.

Wrapping up

As mobile commerce continues to dominate the market, with sales reaching 60% of total ecommerce sales in 2023, it’s evident that having a mobile presence is essential for success.

The increasing reliance on mobile devices for shopping highlights the importance of optimizing for mobile commerce to provide a seamless shopping experience and foster brand loyalty.

The debate between a mobile website and an app ultimately comes down to your specific business goals, target audience, and resources.

Whether you opt for a mobile website, a mobile app, or a combination of both, the key is to align your choice with your overall ecommerce strategy and customer needs.

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