Do I need a native mobile app if my website is already responsive

Do I need a native mobile app if my website is already mobile friendly?

So, you’ve got a mobile friendly website – it looks great on every device, seamlessly changing sizing, fonts and layouts across desktop, tablet and smartphone. What would you need an app for?
This is a pretty common question for businesses – and unfortunately there’s a whole load of myth and misconception out there. The simplest answer to the question is, it depends. But that doesn’t help you much – in order to get to grips with the answer, we need to take a trip back in time.

As it was – The early (ugly) days of websites

When the internet first emerged, most businesses failed to see the need for a website. Those who did, however, were pioneers (as well as pretty savvy business people). This may be hard to believe if you remember how awful those websites were (truly, they were pretty hideous – if your memory fails you, take a trip to*).
* Disclaimer – you may need some pretty sturdy sunglasses, this collection of websites is enough to make your eyes bleed.

Whilst there were no directories, no social media and no real way to make a website look even half good back then, these businesses knew that being online ultimately expanded their reach. Despite all the ugliness (and functionality that was remarkably even uglier), these businesses were the ones to benefit once consumers (and technological capabilities) caught on and evolved.
Which brings us to modern times…

Today you may not need an app, but tomorrow? Well, that’s a different story.

Let me ask you a few questions about that super shiny, mobile ready website of yours…

Can your website allow you to compete whilst your customer is within a competitor’s physical premises?

Can your website instantly let your customer know that they’re passing by your business, and that you have a sale on?

Can your website serve up customised content based on each customer’s interests or demographics?

Can your website allow for the collection of loyalty points with an in-store purchase?

Can your customer use your website to try your product on, virtually?

Can your website dynamically adjust the price of a product based on a customer’s social influence?

No, I thought not. Apps can do all of this, and much more besides. They benefit from technological capabilities that websites simply don’t – and they’re pretty incredible, too. Take a few examples – augmented reality, camera integration, biometrics, geo-location, sensors, and 3D gaming, to name but a few. And mobile technology is developing all the time – with new capabilities being launched far more quickly for apps, than they are for websites. 

You may not have the budget, inclination or need today for any of these things – tomorrow, however, you certainly will. And just like those early pioneers of the very first websites, simply having an app will ensure you’re where you need to be, come the time to make the most of all that’s possible.

Still not convinced? Then consider this…

The technologies I’ve mentioned may not fit with your business – you may think that you have no need for them today or tomorrow. You might then feel it makes sense to wait for a technology that does align with your business. But playing the waiting game is a mistake.
Answer this – Which is more of a challenge – getting 100,000 potential customers to download your app, or getting 100,000 people who already have your app to update to a newer version?
It’s most certainly getting people to download your app in the first place. Once they have, you’ll have their names and email addresses, and smartphones already notify people of the need to update.
Ultimately this gives you the chance to begin building a base of app users. Come the time when you do develop an engaging, advanced app that makes the most of a suitable technology, the dividends paid in sales could be unparalleled.

So, the more accurate answer as to whether you need an app or not, is perhaps not – but there are many compelling reasons to forge ahead with an app right now nevertheless. This isn’t to say that even the most ‘basic’ of apps are easy and fast to develop – they’re not, and the processes require time, a decent budget and a skilled team. However, getting on board the app wagon right now is more than a worthy commercial step to take if you’re not to be leap frogged by your competition in the not-so-distant-future.