Mobile for B2B: Native or Web?


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Thinking of developing a mobile app for your business? Should you go for a native, device-based application or a web-based application? This white paper addresses some of the considerations...

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Mobile for B2B: Native or Web?

  1. 1. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page1Mobile for B2BNative or Web?August 2011Tom Kelly & Rob Hurst
  2. 2. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page2IntroMobile for B2B SeriesThis paper is one of a series we’ve 1. Native or Web?written to help answer some of the 2. Design considerationsquestions we often hear from clients 3. Security considerationsnow that mobile content is firmly on 4. Cross compiled appsthe B2B marketing agenda.Web apps or native apps? How tooptimise content? What should anapp look like? Why might I need anapp and how can it benefit mymarketing activities?This series aims to give some usefulcontext for anyone considering howto make the most of mobile as amarketing channel.
  3. 3. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 3‘Going mobile’ different, particularly given the predictions that by 2014 mobile internet will have taken over desktop internet usage (Gigacom - MaryAs the first of this series, we want to start this Meeker: Mobile Internet Will Soon Overtakepaper by highlighting the mobile opportunity Fixed Internet).and defining what we mean by native and webapps. Native or Web?One of the keys to successful marketing is There is now much debate over whetherhaving something (of value) to say, and marketers should be planning native or websomeone (who wants to hear it) to say it to. To apps. We are often asked which is best or whichdo that you need to understand your audience one should be used. Both have their pros andand have some insight into their needs around cons and to be quite honest, there is no clearwhich you can shape your messaging. That as a winner. Sadly the honest (and non-committal)principle applies across any marketing channel. answer is “it depends…” and sometimes the answer might even be “both”.So assuming you have a valuable message toshare and an audience receptive to hearing it, In this paper we’ll highlight some of the keythen mobile is becoming an increasingly considerations in making your decision.interesting platform for B2B marketersbringing new opportunities to reach customers Let’s start with a definition, or two:and new ways to engage with them. Native apps are downloaded from secure locations such as the iTunes app store and areMobile Internet use has seen then stored locally on your device. They can bemassive growth over the last accessed with or without a data connection (though some functionality may require a datafew years with a recent study connection).(by Kantar Worldpanel) Web apps are developed for a mobile devicesuggesting that around 50% but accessed directly through a browser, they can be bookmarked to appear on your devicesof the UK mobile phone users home screen like a native app but alwaysnow own Smartphones. require a data connection to access them.That said our recent research in partnershipwith The Marketing Society ‘What WorksWhere in B2B’ showed that as a channel mobilestill has some way to go in establishing itself asan essential tool in the B2B marketing kit. It isunderstandable – the spend on the medium islow and so, at the moment, is the time spent onit. Given Smartphone adoption, 3G penetrationand unlimited data plans that have driven asurge of mobile media consumption acrossgeographies and deepened the integration ofmobile devices into everyday life, we believethat in a year’s time the picture may be
  4. 4. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 4Should you be Another consideration is the potential need to cater to the increasingly popular tablet market, in particular the iPad - which is in many cases‘app-nostic’? the biggest sources of “mobile” traffic to websites.With more than 500,000+ apps and In some situations it’s simply not enough togrowing, the Apple’s iOS platform is probably create one version of an app. For some largethe most obvious destination for native organisations, there is a need to develop aapps. However Google’s Android OS is native app for iOS and Android plus a web appproviding stiff competition to Apple, having to cater for the remaining Smartphonerecently passed Apple in terms of global market platforms such as BlackBerry, WP & Symbian.share - although Android is not anywhere near It is an approach that many big companies haveiOS in terms of revenue. taken – Shell is a good example – their multi- platform approach is powerful as it will allowThe decision about the almost all Smartphone users to interact with the Shell brand. Whilst offset somewhat by thedevice(s) you develop apps sheer size of the brand, the obvious downsidefor should be led by your is the development and maintenance cost of these will be more than if they were to developaudience - it’s important to only one.spend some time researchingwhat device your targetaudience primarily uses forbusiness connectivity.The geographic location of your end user isoften a major factor in building an app which ison the right device for your audience. Forexample, Blackberry devices continue to bepopular among Enterprise users but also moregenerally in the US market, although theirmarket share is declining with Android & iOSfast becoming more accepted in the businessworld. Additionally, over the last year alone,there has been a 30% increase in businessusers owning and operating their own handset.Whilst the iPhone’s popularity continues it isno longer the dominant device in some keygeographies (
  5. 5. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 5Considerations work across different devices - as long as they have a web browser.In deciding which route to take with an app, Audience reachthere are a number of factors that must beconsidered. To better understand the Native apps generally cater for smallerdifferences and how they might affect your audiences than web apps, as your content candecision we have outlined some of the key only be used by the audience with the devicedifferences between the approaches of native that the app has been designed and built for.vs. web app. However, browsing an ‘app store’ for a native app is often the first point of call for users,Device compatibility giving an intuitive discovery mechanism for your audience. However you should not adhereNative apps are only compatible with the to the “build it and they will come” approach asoperating system they were intended for, so your app is among thousands of other apps thatiOS apps will only work on iPhones, Android your user might download. You need to workapps will only work on Android phones and so hard to get your app the visibility it needs toon - although there are plans for Blackberry to succeed.allow Android apps to work on the OS. One significant benefit of success with this is ifWeb apps can counter this as they will work you succeed in getting the user to downloadacross a variety of browsers on a variety of your app, you have, by default, a presence ondevices. This is obviously powerful, but the that user’s ‘home screen’ which is quite acaveat is that they therefore require extensive powerful place to be - particularly if your app iscross-browser testing to ensure they work regularly updated via push notifications.across the ever growing range of smartphones. Web apps have the potential for far greater reach as they are not device dependent.Development and Hosting an app on the web, however, does limitmaintenance costs some user’s likelihood of discovering the app. Audience reach for web apps can also beNative apps require platform-specific broader because web apps can be developed todevelopment tools and knowledge of the work on older and less powerful phones - asspecific platforms on which the app is to reside. long as they have a browser. This alone couldCurrently, the most popular platforms are be a very important consideration when tryingApple’s iOS and Google’s Android, which have a to reach audiences in developing markets.very large combined market share. Howeveryou also need to consider less popular Geographic reachplatforms including Windows Phone,Blackberry & Symbian, each with a significant Native apps rely heavily on the marketuser base of their own. Each new platform penetration in the targeted geography. Forpotentially requires creation of a separate app instance, in India, where Smartphone(see our paper on Cross Compiled Apps for penetration is still relatively low, a native appmore on this). on either iPhone or Android would be inappropriate as ‘feature phones’ (lessWeb apps require the same degree of planning powerful phones offering someup-front and a similar design process, but youonly need to build one app, which will then
  6. 6. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 6Smartphone-style features, but at a lower cost) app would almost certainly be the best way toare far more popular. go.Web apps are not platform dependent and Web app functionality is far more limited, buttherefore are far more appropriate for markets is improving with the use of things like geo-where device penetration is lower or if your location and multiple orientation supportaudience uses a wide range of mobile devices becoming more common.and operating systems. It is important thoughto identify the devices your audience is most SEOlikely to be using so that the app can be testedand optimised specifically for these. Native apps are more difficult to discover via the web, but people searching the name of anInstallations and updates app will produce app-store holding pages within search results for both iOS and Android.Native app updates must be released ordeployed by the developer through an app- Web apps, on the other hand, are searchablestore platform (a process that takes time due to on the web in the same way any other part ofstore-approval processes) and are downloaded your site and are far more search engineby the user, when they browse for updates. friendly.This makes the process of addressing issuesmore cumbersome with the potential for bugs Analyticsthat render an app useless sometimes takingweeks to update. Tracking your app is hugely important to better understand its effectiveness in the marketplace.Web apps are hosted on the web, meaning anyupdate is automatically made with the refresh Native app tracking can be built into the appof a browser – instantaneously. but is not included by default. Tracking native apps has the benefit of recording how many people have downloaded your app and howDistribution much they use it. This is valuable both in theNative apps, as mentioned previously, are initial launch to understand how well it hassubject to a review and approval process by initially been received but also in the longerapp store staff, which can take several weeks. term as you will be able to see how regularlyConsequently, if an app needs to be live quickly, the app is accessed by its users. This will alsothis is a potential issue and must be considered. allow you to consider what updates and additions you can include to increase the app’sWeb apps simply require a compatible life span.browser and an internet connection and can beuploaded or removed in real time. Web apps can be tracked using the same methods as you would use on a standardDevice capabilities and website – for example using Google Analytics. One disadvantage to web-apps, however, is thatintegration you won’t know how many people have saved your app to their handset home screen.Native apps can take full advantage of asmartphone’s functional capability by accessingthings like the phone’s camera, GPS locator,gyroscope and accelerometer. If you wish yourapp to make use of any of these, then a native
  7. 7. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 7Discoverability loading must use an active internet connection. This often leads to video and audio contentNative apps for B2B companies are often going being compressed to provide a faster userto have a smaller target audience than mass experience, but resulting in lower qualitymarket consumer apps and can therefore suffer media.somewhat from the established distributionmodel. Typically distribution relies on a user Contentsearching for an app, following a link or seeingan app-store feature on the app. In this busy The final key considerations in the webapp vs(and growing!) market place, more niche apps native debate is that however well somethingmay fall through the cracks, as they are unlikely has been designed, either as a native app or forto be promoted and rely on your audience the web, having the right content, presented inknowing about your app or searching for your the right way is the real key to an app’s to see if you have an app. Native apps allow for a richer level ofWeb apps potentially allow for easier audio/visual content that can be stored happilydiscovery by your audience, but marketing on the device and be called up in an instant,efforts to get people continually using the app - meaning images can be larger, video can be inideally saving it to their home screen, can be HD and audio can be crystal clear, and moremore complicated. importantly, due to content sitting on the device, can be accessed offline.Internet access Web apps, on the other hand, rely mainly on their internet connection, even in light of recentNative apps often don’t need internet access to developments to HTML5’s (the code in whichfunction as they can store large amounts of web-apps are built) increasing offline storagedata on the phone itself allowing people to use capabilities. These apps live within a browserthe app offline. However, if you wish to provide environment, meaning the presentation of theaccess to a live database or allow searches, content relies on both these restrictions. Foryou’ll need a connection. example, if a video is being used, the page thatWeb apps, on the other hand, generally require contains the video will need to load, as will thea constant internet connection, although some video, which will also need to buffer andmore basic functions can be optimised using stream, constantly relying on a steady andthe offline storage capabilities of technologies strong internet connection to power theselike HTML5. functions.Data storageNative apps, as detailed above, require spaceon the device as the app’s content is storedlocally, this saves on loading times, particularlywith rich media such as video or audio content,which can be available instantly and in highquality.Web apps, on the other hand, shouldn’t requireany disk space as the app is stored online,although this means that any data that needs
  8. 8. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page 8ConclusionsWhilst it may sound inconclusive as aconclusion, the real answer to the native vs.web app question is that there’s no correctanswer. Both approaches have theirdrawbacks and each has their benefits.As well as the considerations outlined in thisdocument, the other papers in this series,which touch on security and designconsiderations, highlight some of the mainthings that anyone exploring app developmentneeds to consider.Ultimately the decision about native or webapp will need to made based on what your appneeds to do and the audience it is intended toreach.First and foremost, it’s important tounderstand the audience that would use yourapp before you build the app they’ll use.Read the rest of the Mobilefor B2B series.1. Native or Web?2. Design considerations3. Security considerations4. Cross compiled apps
  9. 9. Mobile for B2B: Native or Web? Page9Omobono is an award winningdigital agency specialising in branddevelopment and engagement forlarge corporates and government.We believe no one has a betterunderstanding of businessaudiences and how to reach them.For more information, please contactRob Hurst on or+44 (0) 1223 307000.© 2011 Omobono Ltd.All ideas, concepts, brand-related names, strap lines, phrases, copy/text andcreative concepts developed and contained within this document remain theintellectual property of Omobono Ltd until such time as they are procured by athird party.Anyone viewing this document may not use, adapt of modify the contents withoutour prior consent.