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Find Out Why this Pro Says Mobile First Kicks Apps


Our partners over at Internet Advertising Bureau UK got John Byrne, Account Director, Publisher Solutions at Vibrant Media to weigh in on the pros and cons of a strategy focused on apps versus mobile optimized sites.

Read his post and be sure to check out his two top advantages of making a mobile optimized site.

We all have them: that little icon on our phones that without which our lives would feel more complicated and altogether less enjoyable. For me, it’s Spotify. Having all the music I could ever want at the tap of a touchscreen? I’m not quite sure how I ever lived without it!

And it would appear I’m not alone. According to a report by Compuware, 85% of consumers prefer apps to mobile websites.

Let me make it clear now, I love apps. They’re great, they’re convenient, they’re here to stay, but they’re not the be all and end all of mobile content.

This past January, a Mintel study found that the number one activity on smartphones is search – a function performed within mobile browsers, not apps. The IAB reacted to the fact that 66% of mobile phone owners in the UK (32.7m) are now using their device to browse the Internet every month with an effort to ‘make mobile mandatory’ for brands and practitioners in 2013, suggesting that apps may not be the best solution for all content on mobile.

Let’s examine that 85% stat in more detail. According to the study of 3,534 smartphone users across the UK, US, France, Germany, India, and Japan, the most common reason for preference to apps is that they are seen to be more convenient (55%), faster (48%) and easier to browse (40%). Therefore, if the browsing experience on mobile websites were all of these things, it makes sense that users would feel less affiliation to apps.

This line of thinking is borne out when looking at bounce rate for mobile browsers, with recent studies suggesting this could be anywhere between 10% and 14% higher on average than from desktop and laptop. This is hardly surprising when we consider the lack of mobile optimised sites out there. Here at Vibrant, we recently conducted a study that found 68% of publishers do not have a mobile optimised site.

So what then are the advantages of a mobile optimised website? Amongst a myriad of benefits, two stand head and shoulders above the rest:

User retention - It’s certainly not unusual to see users move from mobile on the way to work, to desktop at work, back to mobile on the journey home and then possibly tablet and/or laptop in the evening. With this shift in devices, publishers need to make sure that a user’s experience of their site is consistent. If the page does not render properly on their first visit, they are less likely to come back.

Revenue – Non-mobile optimised sites tend to feature non-mobile optimised advertising. The AOP’s 2013 Census continues to rate advertising as the number one priority revenue stream for the industry. Publishers not mobile ready will be missing out on a reported £526m that is currently being spent by advertisers on mobile.

A good example of a publisher securing both of these benefits already is where the look and feel, and monetisation, of content is consistent across all devices.

So, what’s the future for apps? Apps will always be around, but even now their popularity tends to be based on having a specific function rather than being a portal through which users can browse content at length. This is evidenced by a quick glance at the charts in Apple App Store. In April 2013, only one of the top five paid and free apps was focused on helping users consume content, and even that was very bite sized information - live football scores.

For a digital publisher, it will always be ‘nice to have’ that app: the interesting, functionally-focused app that extends their brand. However, it’s unlikely that digital publishers will be able to live without a mobile optimised site.

What are your thoughts? Weigh in under our comments section!

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