It is definitely in your best interest to expand the digital footprint of your business. You are probably wondering whether or not developing an app will boost your online business or it is better to stick with a website or even explore alternatives such as Progressive Web Apps. Let us explore solutions to this dilemma that many e-commerce businesses face.
Gathering data on which category of devices (phones/computers/tablets) are used could help provide some guidance. According to gs.statscounter.com as of May 2020, Mobile phones have a 50.34% market share, tablets have a 2.99% Market share, while desktops have a 46.67% market share. From this data we can conclude that a mobile app is indeed a viable option since it has the largest market share, however, a website is still indispensable since it can be accessed through all the stated devices.
When to develop a mobile app for your e-commerce site:
Here are some good reasons to develop a mobile app to complement your e-commerce site.
- When you need to integrate some new native device features to add some custom functionality. This may include body sensors. Or any other features inaccessible by the web.
- If your site is growing rapidly, it is cost-effective in the long run to develop an app since it will help reduce bandwidth to your serves as entire pages won’t be requested from the server every time a user loads a new page. On an app, only the data will be requested and rendered on the client-side.
When not to develop a mobile app for your e-commerce site
- Depending on some factors a mobile app may not be a suitable option for your e-commerce site. Here we highlight some.
- If your company is on a tight budget, building and maintaining apps could be a costly affair and therefore end up not being beneficial. It is always good to assess whether the returns on investment will be worth the time and money spent.
- If your business is small it may be unnecessary as the app space is quite competitive and according to some statistics people rarely download new apps. A website will be much more accessible and exploring options such as progressive web apps could help you deliver a similar app experience with your website as it is.
- When your website is working fine and you aren’t facing any performance issues.
- If you may not desire to integrate any custom device features inaccessible from the website.
Advantages of developing a mobile app for your e-commerce site:
Here are some benefits that could be derived from building a mobile app for your business.
- Performance: Mobile apps generally offer a better user experience as they surpass some of the limitations of browsers. This could go a long way in enhancing user experience. However, it is good to note that performance boost in some cases isn’t always obvious to the end-user as there may be a difference of a few milliseconds in some cases.
- Efficiency: A mobile app as highlighted earlier could help reduce bandwidth from your servers as they only request for data and not entire webpages.
- Offline Access: With a mobile app users can easily access some features even while offline. This contributes greatly to user engagement and customer satisfaction. It is good to note that progressive web apps could provide this functionality for your websites (more on this in the section Approaches to the development of a Mobile app for an E-commerce site
- Device Feature access: Websites do have access to features such as accelerometers and geolocation, however some cutting edge features such as body sensors may not be accessible, and also excessive usage of them could lead to performance limitations which will result in bad user experience.
Disadvantages of developing a mobile app for your e-commerce site:
Some of the downsides of developing a mobile app for your company include.
- Cost: Hiring developers for both mobile and web is expensive and therefore should be done only when necessary. This is because development and maintenance costs should be accounted for as apps and websites are usually updated regularly.
- Security E-commerce websites often deal with sensitive user data and having both a mobile app and website adds another dimension for attackers. If security is a concern proper measures should be taken to ensure all platforms are secure.
- Maintenance: Developers will have to ensure that the theme and UI are synced across platforms and this could lead to some unpleasant inconsistencies if not well executed.
After weighing some advantages and disadvantages you probably can decide whether or not your e-commerce website needs a mobile app. Below we highlight some approaches you would take whether or not you want to build a mobile app for your site, to ensure that users get a mobile app experience, from either a native app or a website.
Approaches to Development of a Mobile App for an E-Commerce site:
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):
A progressive web app is a website that has been configured to enable offline functionality and also convenient access from the home screen similar to how mobile apps are accessed. It is however still a website and is subject to the same limitations but will take just a bit of configuration to implement as any website can easily be turned to a PWA.
A hybrid app is one that has been developed using a single programming language usually for major mobile platforms such as Android and iPhone. Hybrid app developers use a single language such as Flutter or React-Native to develop for both platforms and can, therefore, speed up development time and be much more cost-effective.
A native app is one built with a platform-specific language such as Java for Android or Swift for iPhone. This is the most expensive approach to app development, as you’ll need both teams however, such apps are much more highly customizable compared to hybrid and PWAs.
Which approach should you take?
We can consider a few factors such as cost, time, and maintenance to determine the most suitable method. If your business were running an e-commerce website somewhere in Texas and we’re looking for a mobile app solution, a Dallas mobile app Development Company X that specializes in developing Hybrid apps will probably charge you much less for the development of a Hybrid mobile app, and take much less time compared to say an Austin mobile app Development Company Y that specializes in native apps. On the other hand, a PWA could be implemented in a matter of days as long as you have an existing e-commerce website.
Analyze the current status of your business as well as growth plan and select the most suitable approach towards expanding your e-commerce digital footprint.