mobile apps or mobile sites -- who's winning the battle?
Recently an article was brought to my attention from marketingcharts.com. At first glance, the data presented in this article would lead someone to believe that the mobile web is preferred over mobile apps for most consumers. After looking at this in more depth however, the data actually supports what we’ve been striving to achieve through our mobile apps.
Mobile applications are far superior to any equivalent mobile website, and the graphs in these articles should be the inverse of where they stand now. Even if the two present the exact same data, the mobile app will almost certainly present it quicker and in a more customized, user-friendly manner. Unlike the limitation of a browser, mobile apps take full advantage of the device’s hardware instead of simply using them as a smaller portal to show what is meant for a full-sized computer.
The beauty of mobile applications is their integration with the mobile device’s native hardware, and their visual “wow factor” that brings the user back to that astonishingly useable experience time and time again. If the survey was conducted after users had tried both the mobile website and then the mobile application, I am convinced the numbers would be very different.
The article also mentions stats on the user demographic for these results. Younger users are more comfortable with using mobile devices, showing that mobile usage will continue to steadily increase for years to come.
But what may be the most striking takeaway from this study is how it all relates to real estate. This study was meant to specifically target the amount of purchasing people are doing on their mobile devices, not how they use it to interface. The article has an entire section stating how users are rather comfortable browsing information and researching prices on their mobile devices.
Obviously purchasing a home is not like picking out a pair of slacks; it takes time and a lot of research before a decision is made. Our apps are meant to aid this process efficiently, and encourage interaction with realtors seamlessly. With our application, a user will see far more information about a property than on the equivalent mobile website, can view a high resolution gallery, and request a showing all with the touch of a button (and in a fraction of the time it would take on the mobile website).
There’s no doubt in my mind that the user appreciates this experience and feels more comfortable investing their time and money in a company that cares about their shopping experience from start to finish.
Another reason that many mobile users are so tied into mobile web browsing is due to their typical habits and standard reliance on web to answer their questions. Most users turn to search engines such as Google to start researching any topic, including real estate, and are repeating this on their mobile devices. Since mobile is still a relatively new platform, many users that are not very attuned to how to take full advantage of it and might need to be nudged out of their comfort zone at first.
As developers, we’re always looking for ways to solve these problems and integrate native applications into a user’s natural mobile experience. For example, we can now use links sent through emails or text messages to launch native apps and direct users to specific pages within the app, such as property detail pages or photo galleries. We already use QR codes as a quick way to get the word out about apps (which can be easily incorporated into emails and marketing material).
Also, if a user starts a web search on their mobile phone and ends up on any of our mobile web pages, we plan on implementing a prompt in the near future that will notify the user that there is a mobile app available for that content and can take them right to the app on the app store.
As time goes forward, staying two steps ahead with mobile will give any company the edge in their market. By being the first to provide the customer with the experience they’re looking for, our customers will help define the standards for their markets. Taking advantage of technology as its developed and keeping a strong focus on providing the user with the most intuitive and relevant experience is what will separate the boys from the men.