Why Does an Online Store Not Need a Native Mobile App?
By Max Shestov
With the advancement in technology, the internet, and web-based applications, the number of smartphone users has increased manifold. This growing number of smartphone users worldwide is almost half of the world’s population now – 4 Billion. According to data forecasts, it will grow several hundred million in coming years. Smartphone users like to carry technology on the go. Yes, smartphone users work 90% of their time with applications but most of them are related to games and utility.
Statistics say that on average smartphone users have 40 apps on their mobile phones of which just 18 mobile apps are used daily. That’s a huge waste of the app creation budget and poor strategic planning.
Changing patterns of online shoppers
Current global unprecedented challenges have caused a huge surge in mobile users, shopping from the comforts of their homes, while abiding by the social distancing rules. The time spent on online shopping is topping the charts of all mobile usage time!
Keeping in mind the surge in online mobile shoppers and the decrease in mobile app usage, the innovative usage of online store website apps seems promising!
Online stores or eCommerce stores do not need native mobile apps anymore, which are quite a costly affair. This idea is not furnishing complete returns on investment as users are constantly on the lookout for quick and speedy solutions to their mobile app requirements and a seamless and smooth surfing experience.
Younger generations of online customers/users are on a continuous shopping spree looking for fast, unique, and user-friendly apps to serve the purpose. They are diverted and lured to some less time-consuming and quick online website applications that have seamless interfaces and can run easily on their browsers at the click of their fingertips!
The good news is, their wish can be fulfilled without having native mobile apps on their handheld devices. Now there is an option of having their favorite store’s website apps pushed into their mobile browsers seamlessly.
Online store owners or start-ups need not set an extra budget for the development of mobile apps but can focus on developing store website applications to provide a maximum user experience. So, it is a win-win situation for both, online store owners and speed savvy customers.
eCommerce Mobile App Creation Options
There are different ways in which an eCommerce mobile app can be developed depending upon the available budget and serve the shopping patterns of online shoppers. The creation of prototypes and their performance needs to be tested before applying a particular option, as there are equal chances of failures of an app.
Native apps are created with mobile platforms in mind (iOS and Android). Mobile users receive such apps directly from the mobile app stores. Native apps are platform and technology-specific. While they provide brilliant performance and a user-friendly interface the cost to maintain a big development team for a longer period adds to the cost.
Web applications are developed as websites using HTML5 and JS codes. These websites are wrapped in an invisible native WebView container and can be considered as websites turned into mobile apps. These sites have lower costs of development, fewer requirements, easy to develop, and have shorter release cycles. Updates are easily and automatically available to users, as they access their applications. These apps are though less efficient than their native counterparts in comfort and design and efficiency. It works through a browser on your device and one needs the internet to access it.
Cross-platform apps are easier to develop than their native counterparts. These are also easy to develop as part of the codes that can be shared across platforms. Unlike web apps, they are in contact with mobile operating systems. Sharable codes across platforms increase speed and reduce the need of having many developers. UI/UX being rendered through native controls make them closer to native mobile apps. Some parts of non-shareable code still need to be written in the native language. This slows the performance. The design framework and plugins also affect the performance of such cross-platform apps.
eCommerce Website Options
Mobile optimized, responsive websites
The evolution of website design has led to a wonderful development form called responsive design. Responsive design is a design that works on any platform. This design is flexible regardless of the device. It is a custom CSS stylesheet that makes any website look great on any handheld device. Whether you access it from your PC, iPhone, Android mobile device, or tablet the website will format perfectly. The website will orient itself automatically for a given device or browser type. The ease with which the website operates with a combination of auto-formatting and auto-optimization makes it fluid and flexible!
The next step involves mobile optimization for enhancement after the creation of responsive websites.
A mobile-optimized design looks very different from a responsive site when viewed on a mobile device. It is always designed and built with mobile users in mind.
For small-medium size online stores, responsive websites are the best solution. The website will have easy-to-use features. While the creation of its counterpart native mobile app is a time-consuming, costly process that requires expert coding skills and efforts on part of the development team.
Progressive Web Applications (PWA) as the name suggests are web applications running as websites. A mobile application in a browser. Progressive means that the web application user experience is progressed or enhanced gradually depending upon the browser capabilities of the user. It is a specific way to build and design an application. The following 9 characteristics of PWA as summed by Alex Russell, Google Chrome Engineer, makes it a promising cutting edge technology for online or eCommerce stores, to create mobile apps without the need for native mobile apps:
- Connectivity independent: No internet connection needed. Users can work offline. An unstable connection and no connection at all is not a problem.
- Responsive: The page looks good on different devices like phones, tablets, and desktops.
- Interactive: App-like interaction that provides the look and feel of native applications.
- Freshness: Always Up-To-Date as it has access to the hardware of mobile devices,
- Safe: Secure connections to mitigate security threats.
- Discoverable: PWA’s are found by browsers automatically. They can work seamlessly in any browser.
- Re-engageable: Invite and bring back users to the app using “Push Notifications”.
- Installed easily: Easily stored on the home screen like native applications skipping usage of app stores. There is no need to download from the app store.
- Linked and shared easily: Shared as simple URLs.
Web applications are more advantageous than their native application counterparts. We have seen that a shift to the PWA technology leads to an increase in customer satisfaction after the migration because of increased user satisfaction.
WebApp installed as a PWA on an Android user device.
Usage of PWA could be another alternative for creating progressive and interactive websites. Though there are some drawbacks of PWA as any other evolving technology. Poor support on other browsers is one of them. According to Firefox architect Dave Townsend, there is currently no plan for PWA support.
Before migrating to any technology for your online stores a lot of research is needed in this area. Lots of surveys, research, and involvement in the focus groups are required to understand the needs of the customers. Thorough business planning and appropriate marketing strategies need to be in place, as in the case of any other new business idea, to make the migration of your online store to a website application.
And you shouldn’t stop there. Look for ways to build user-friendly interfaces, set up marketing strategies to launch a web application and ask for customer feedback religiously and build a process for back-end support.
Keep in mind that, even after all of the efforts and proper planning sometimes mobile apps fail. Some of them are due to a lack of proper app design, mobile app development, testing and marketing, poor user experience, and so on.
All of these steps should help you with your online store migration, to mobile or web apps, aligning with your business needs.