When Responsive Web is Not Enough: The Case for the Native App

When Responsive Web is Not Enough: The Case for the Native App

Last month, at the Mobile Shopping Summit in Palm Springs, I had the chance to chat with literally hundreds of retailers who there to discuss mobile strategies. This is my second year attending the event, and I was surprised at how little one of the primary areas of conversation has changed. Repeatedly, marketers told me that they are struggling with whether to build a mobile app or stick with responsive web.

TLDR: If you’re an enterprise brand, you need both; they often serve vastly different functions. The key is to look for ways you can use apps to accomplish business goals that responsive web will never be able to achieve, alone.

There’s no getting around the necessity to have a well designed mobile web presence. In October, 2016, mobile eclipsed desktop internet usage, with mobile accounting for 51.3% of time spent online. For years, we’ve speculated that we would soon live in a “mobile-first world.” Now that time has come. Your customers must be able to point a mobile browser to your URL and have a great experience.

For brands, the web is great for users who want to make a purchase or quickly, get information such as product data, pricing, location or contact info. So is that enough? Can you invest in a great responsive website and call it a day? Well if basic mCommerce and brand reach are all you are looking for, then perhaps. But native apps have functionality that websites don’t and because of their rapid adoption, the potential for outstanding ROI hard to ignore.

“A mobile web site is definitely a prerequisite for any web player. It’s a great way to cope with the usual upstream web traffic while offering a mobile experience,” says Hugo Sallé de Chou, Founder of French payment disruptor, Pumpkin. “An app though is a whole other level for mobile presence. Mobile apps benefit from their own set of tools for traffic acquisition, retention and referral. In the end, the mobile app is the ultimate interface for building a unique experience and personal customer relationship.”

Because native apps can do things the web can’t they can accomplish business goals that the web can’t. They create experiences, elevate brand, shorten sales cycles, facilitate communication, streamline transportation and improve customer experience. Apps have great internal uses like fleet and inventory management, as well.

The smartphone is literally a mini computer and apps are able to leverage those capabilities much more than a website. They are context-aware, meaning they can react to triggers such as user location and behavior both inside and outside the app. For example, if I reply to an email sent by my pharmacy about a prescription renewal, I can receive a push notification letting me know that it’s ready, and a reminder to pick it up, if I am in the vicinity of the store. All of that is far outside the scope of mobile web.

The pace of app use growth is staggering. According to comScore, in 2016, people spent 7x more time in mobile apps than mobile web. Usage grew 111% year-over-year and mobile apps account for 80% of time spent using all digital channels. This is increasing across every age group, especially millennials. Can you really afford not to claim your piece of this?

The counter argument is that most of this usage time only gets allotted to the user’s favorite apps–around seven to be specific. To become indispensable takes creativity and an outstanding engagement strategy. But we’re seeing many of our customers find ways to fill their customers’ needs that ensure retention and go beyond the limitations of mobile web. They’ve been successful because they’ve fit in with their customers’ lifestyles and provided important services, whether their app is used daily or only on occasion.

Let’s look at some use cases.

Louis Vuitton City Guides App

Brand: Louis Vuitton
App: Louis Vuitton City Guides
Industry: Luxury Goods
Business Value: Elevate brand experience
Usage Frequency: During Travel

Rather than taking the short-sided view that their patrons are unlikely to purchase expensive luxury handbags and luggage using mobile, LV opted to build an app that elevated their overall brand experience. They adapted their City Guide book series to a native mobile app that acts as a personal docent to more than twenty-five travel destinations. The backend is connected to Louis Vuitton’s CRM so that it can make recommendations based on the traveler’s preferences and past behavior, providing a carefully curated and personalized itinerary. While a mobile website could connect to databases to make recommendations, it could not provide the location-aware, real-time recommendations that are part of the City Guides secret sauce.

The result? Louis Vuitton City Guides cost $10 to download and has achieved high six-digit downloads since their launch last year.

Brand: Renault-Nissan
App: MyRenault
Business Value: Increase Customer Loyalty, Shorten Path to Purchase
Usage Frequency: On-going

While people certainly do buy cars online, Renault-Nissan realized the need to increase customer loyalty and shorten the path to purchase. The MyRenault app reminds car owners about upcoming maintenance needs, helps them schedule appointments and keeps them up-to-date with manufacturer info. Through CRM and social media integration, the tool knows vital information about the user such as driving habits and family size, and is even able to predict when owners will likely be in the market for their next car. Combining this with other data such as location, Renault has been able to map out a push strategy to increase foot traffic to dealerships.

The result? Customers are much more likely to buy a second Renault vehicle and test drives among MyRenault users have increased 17%.

Brand: Allianz
App: Mon Allianz Mobile
Business Value: Boost Customer Satisfaction
Usage Frequency: As Needed

Anyone having to file an insurance claim is already having a rough go of it. The necessity to engage in a cumbersome bureaucratic process only makes things worse. Allianz set out to streamline claims by making them easy through their mobile app. By connecting the app to their backend systems, claims processing is now smooth and painless. Customers don’t have to wait to get home to submit online. They use native smartphone features like cameras to submit reports the moment incidents happen. Because Allianz has intelligently used push notifications in their app to bring value to their customers, such as alerting them to next steps, customers are happy!

The result? Usage is up 30%.

Asking the Right Questions

The question is not whether to invest in mobile web versus native apps. The question enterprise brands should be asking is how to utilize the strengths of each to achieve business goals and bring value to customers. Design mobile websites to provide information and deliver great experiences for occasional users. Design native apps with your most loyal customers in mind. Finally, by including a well thought out engagement strategy, you’ll experience increased customer lifetime value that you couldn’t approach with a website alone.