Responsive Design or Native App. What is best for you?

ScreenHunter_50 Sep. 18 07.21

There has been a lot of debate and discussion in the mobile space regarding what road companies looking to move to mobile should venture down, Responsive or Native? Contrary to popular belief, the popularity and proliferation of responsive web design is not a replacement for the mobile app and it is not going anywhere. Companies, primarily due to development constraints need to decide what is best for them. As you can see from the chart below, most companies haven’t even hopped on the mobile train yet. So, this debate is sure to be played out for quite some time.


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Lets face it, for a lot of companies out there a responsive web site works just fine. However, if large organizations were to dump their native apps in exchange for just having a responsive site they would suffer a huge loss.

Regardless of the recent hype and tsunami-like wave of attention given to websites that are designed in a responsive fashion along with the promises of providing users with a consistent mobile user experience across the vast device landscape, even the most progressive publishers maintain their commitment to stand-alone native mobile apps.

Most experts agree that even with the massive buzz about going the responsive route vs. native with the widespread rise in mobile-based web traffic, this is not a decision that should be made hastily. Social news sites that primarily deliver content and don’t require much interaction such as checking out in a shopping cart for instance are perfect candidates to be shunning native apps and going responsive. However, this has not been the case.

Social News Site, Buzzfeed’s VP of Product Chris Johansen sums it up well by saying that although it would be nice to have one solution that works everywhere, if you desire your audience to have the most fluid experience, the slew of devices out there in the mobile marketplace would need to be optimized.

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Not about one or the other
It doesn’t come down to choosing one over the other. It is about taking a look at who your audience is and studying customer experience analytics. What devices are they using? In the area of mobile commerce (AKA mcommerce) retailers for example have a lot of iPhone users. Just looking at the fact that half of their users come from their native app where the conversion rate is 30% higher is enough of a reason to stay native. However, if the same retailer sees that many visitors are coming from blackberries, they may invest more energy in optimizing the user experience for the blackberry browser.

For retailers that have lots of iPhone users, the fact that 50% of users can come from a native app and the conversion rate can be 30% higher makes a strong argument for creating a native app. Meanwhile, if conversion rates for native BlackBerry apps are subpar, it might make more sense to focus on optimizing the mobile commerce site to work with the BlackBerry browser.

It really comes down to analytics. Mcommerce companies need to look who their visitors are. They need to analyze the platforms that their shoppers are use using to navigate to their sites.They need to look at things such as average price per transaction.

Mcommerce studies continue to reveal that mobile users prefer mobile apps to make purchases, so if etailers are using responsive web sites they need to analyze how well these sites work with shopping cart features and time outs, for example.

Responsive is not a shortcut. Especially for mcommerce sites. If you are small and do not have much of a budget, you should start with a responsive mobile web site and then build a native app when you can justify the cost of building one alongside the responsive one.

Mobile shopping needs to be an experience. It’s up to you to make it one. The need to improve customer experience can be easily attained by combining the use of in-app analytics to see what the customer truly wants, what they don’t want and then go back to the drawing board and test.

Stay tuned for our next blog post on happenings in the mobile world.

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