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Solutions for businesses

App or Mobile Site?

7 Oct 2015

By Bruno Crispin
Marketing Director, Business Mobility

Mobile Business : Moving Forward

Since mobile phones are increasingly powerful and important in people’s lives (according to IDC, smart phone sales will double in 2014), it only seems normal than mobile transactions are experiencing incredible growth. One study even predicts that by 2017, nearly one out of every four transactions will be made through mobile networks.

More and more Quebec businesses are thinking about positioning themselves on the mobile market, but many don’t really know whether to choose a mobile site or an app. In order to make the right choice, it is crucial to understand the differences between the two solutions, as well as their respective benefits, and alternatives.


Mobile Site/Responsive Design Mobile Site/Mobile App: What are They? 

A mobile site is a website which layout and content are adapted for mobile devices. Since it is viewed through a browser, an Internet connection is necessary, but no downloading takes place.

Since wiewing pages on mobile phone or tablet screens is less user-friendly, the following should be considered:

  • Reducing text length
  • Integrating mobility-specific features
  • Using sleek design, which can easily be read vertically.

If you adopt a site-specific content strategy, you will make your communication more efficient, but bear in mind that there is a tradeoff, in the form of a higher budget needed to design and maintain this content.

Many site designers now use “responsive design,” which ensures that your website automatically adapts its page structure according to the platform and screen resolution (desktop computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.) This way, your business will only have one domain name to maintain, which makes search engine optimization (SEO) a lot easier to manage.

An app is software downloaded to a mobile device through an online store (Google Play for Android, or the App Store for Apple). These apps are stored on the device, so some may be used without Internet access. Since they reside locally, such apps offer quicker access than a mobile site, and their performance is more stable. Moreover, their design is perfectly adapted for  mobile devices.


Case Study : Starbucks

Obviously, Starbucks has the means to support its ambition, but its philosophy can still inspire SMEs. At Starbucks, mobility is at the core of a multichannel marketing strategy. It’s not a separate media, for a distinct clientele, but rather an additional way of reaching its usual customers. The way Starbucks sees it: they’re “catching” their clientele during the time they are active and on the move, thus possibly close to one of their branches.

Starbucks’ mobile marketing strategy stems from the executive line of thinking, which considers mobile devices to be an extension of the customer’s hand… exactly like a coffee cup is! Every mobile initiative therefore becomes completely natural, directly derived from experiencing the brand and enjoying the product.

The Starbucks marketing campaigns are very clever for entertaining and engaging consumers across many contact points, for instance sending text messages to mobile phones in order to redirect customers to a social media contest, or sending them to a point-of-sales to benefit from a discount.

Reaching the same customer, but with different needs and at different moments: this is what drove Starbucks to develop both a responsive design mobile site AND an app.


Your Mobile Strategy Prescribes Your Choice… Not the Opposite!

The mobile site and the app each have their own benefits for SMEs, so the choice depends on your target, your product or service, your business goals, the customer experience you wish to have, and, of course, your budget.

If your mobile strategy expects regular, reccuring use and visits, if your product or service has a natural fit with mobility (tourism, food and beverage, taxi, etc.), or if you can make use of mobile device native features (camera, geolocation and positioning, etc.) creating an app is an excellent choice. However, if you do, you must allocate a higher budget than the one needed for building a mobile site, both for making sure your app is available across different platforms (Android, iOS, others), and for maintaining and keeping it up-to-date.

On the other hand, a mobile site is perfectly suited for businesses that wish to be accessible to the greatest number of consumers possible, while keeping development costs at a minimum. By using responsive design, you minimize design, management and marketing efforts, and you can focus on a single site at a single address. Moreover, you ensure that your site can be viewed by all users, whatever their mobile device. By displaying the same content across all platforms, you also project a very cohesive and consistent offer and brand image.

Don’t forget, your company has a lot to gain from “being there,” even virtually, when your customers are ready.


Sources :

Spotlight on mobility eMarketer, april 2013

How Starbucks Brews Its Mobile Strategy

Starbucks: A True Leader in Mobile

Comment Starbucks utilise le mobile dans une stratégie multicanal ?  (in French)

About the author(s)

Marketing Director, Business Mobility

Associated Subjects

Mobile application Mobile App mobile site Mobile