The futures bright the futures mobile
Like it or not smart-phones are the way forward. Recently published statistics, show that in the last quarter of 2010 that more smart-phones (such as iPhones, Blackberrys and other touch screen devices) were sold than PCs. By 2014 it is estimated that over 85% of all phones will be smart-phones. People are getting mobile and are constantly connected to the web and businesses need to learn how to adapt to this mobile marketplace.
My wife often gets irritated at me for looking at my Blackberry saying it is glued to my hand! She is just as bad though, we are a mobile connected family. Whilst on occasion it is intrusive, the mobile web is invaluable to me and millions of others and it will only get more important. I use my mobile to read emails, connect to family and friends on social networks, search the web for information and even buy goods on line. An increasing amount of people are using the mobile web to buy products and services and it is predicted that by 2013 over 4% of on-line retailing in the UK will be via mobiles.
Mobile coverage is pretty good even in deepest, darkest Devon. They are even planning to give mobile access on the London Underground, although for many commuters this maybe a step too far, as sometimes it is the only part of their day when they can be disconnected. Another example of the world becoming more connected on the move is a project Drogon Systems?a locally based company that specialises in VOIP telephony is working on that will provide wi-fi access on cross country trains. Currently Orange are the only provider that has the ability to offer a service, due to the Faraday effect found in modern trains.
So with the virtually ubiquitous mobile access, how can businesses tap into this growing market channel? You can go down the application (App) route where you can get an application developed, like Twitter or Facebook, which your customers can download to their phones and access your sites. Or you can go the mobile web route, where you get a version of your website developed that will display clearly in your mobiles web browser. If you have the budget you could even get both developed (similar to sites like the BBC which has an enormous budget, or at least did have until recently).
Businesses first need to take a good look at your target markets are and how your customers access information. The overriding factor in whatever you do, is to give your users a good user experience when visiting your site on a mobile browser or via smartphone app. Like most users when accessing sites on my phone I just want a simple, clean and quick interface to access the information. According to recent research only 7% of websites are optimised to be viewed effectively on a mobile browser and 65% of small business owners do not plan to have a mobile version (1). This is quite shocking , at best they are potentially missing out on opportunities and at worst losing customers.
Businesses need to be proactive and look to the mobile future. Not all of us have the budgets of corporations like British Airways and Transport for London who have apps for every mobile platform and a mobile website developed as well. Those of use with smaller budgets therefore need to consider some pros and cons for developing apps vs mobile web before investing.
- Very slick interface
- Good integration with native device functionality (Calendar, Messaging, Alerts)
- Wide take up via appstores (iTunes, Android Market etc)
- Can be a nice marketing hook
- Need to develop for multiple platforms if you want to reach 100% of your target audience (currently at least six major platforms that include Apple, Android, Blackberry, Microsoft, WebOS and Symbian).
- Tied into appstore policies content publishers and developers have to abide by rules and fees!
- 26 % of users only use an app once!
Mobile Web Pros
- Generally you only need to develop once.
- All smartphones have web browsers therefore can reach 100% of your potential marketplace.
- Can have the same slick interface and user experience as an app.
Mobile Web Cons
- Not all mobile web browsers display pages the same way.
- Doesn't have the native integration into the phone which can be useful if you want to access functions like GPS, calendars and messaging
It's worth noting that most apps don't need access to the underlying operating systems, so consider this carefully as this would normally be one of the major factors and could well determine which path you take. If you need integration with GPS or something similar then you need to go down the apps route. Don't get sucked into the hype of apps, for some businesses it would be a costly mistake!
We do not favour one approach over the other. The way forward is for businesses to look at their requirements and select the most appropriate technology to used. It may be an app or a mobile website, or even a mix of both. The important thing is to determine what your requirements are and then make an informed decision based on the facts and not the hype.
What business can't afford to do, is not to at least investigate the mobile opportunity and miss out on a bright future.
Mobile Commerce Statistics from Econsultancy (1)
Mobile site creation tools?Mashable
Transport for London launches mobile friendly website.
BBC Pressure mounts over Apple subs
Arguments for mobile web?Smashing Magazine