Companies Evaluate Mobile Strategies

LOS ANGELES — For a wide range of operators, many of whom are now several years into the mobile market, reviewing their deployment strategies is a growing concern.

According to FierceMobile author Sandhya Raman, companies are investigating ways in which they may establish the best mobile presence for their business, brand or product but finding that a workable solution may not always be forthcoming or straightforward.

“Some businesses rely on users navigating to their standard desktop website via a device’s native search client. Others invest in special websites, optimized for mobile phones. Still others create specialized mobile apps,” Raman wrote. “And some companies invest in a combination [of mobile apps and websites], which can be costly to maintain, especially for smaller companies.”

“Thus, the question becomes: When is it vital to have a mobile-optimized site versus a native app? Does one result in a greater ROI?” Raman asks. “Can a brand remain competitive without investing in a mobile presence? How will the content be used?”

For many stakeholders, current approaches are lacking or not fully optimized.

Factors include understanding the different ways in which users interact with mobile apps versus mobile websites, as well as the various capabilities of these venues; including the superior graphics and device-leveraging technologies, such as GPS, offered via apps — and how this enhanced user experience is balanced by the ubiquity of website access, which opens up substantially larger audiences, while offering less corporate oversight or content-based restrictions — a notorious problem with adult content providers seeking Apple’s approval for App Store inclusion.

“If you are updating one mobile site you are paying for that and launching it,” stated Brolik Productions CEO Jason Brewer. “You are not waiting for an outside process [such as Apple’s App Store] to approve updates.”

Timeliness is also a factor, as mobile website can be quickly developed and launched; while apps require more compatibility testing and outside approval, which can take time.

A lack of time also plays a role, as the mobile arena’s quick evolution is leaving casual bystanders in the dust.

“The Internet environment is notorious for its rapid evolution, and marketers and developers within the online adult sector have long understood that you have to constantly monitor the market and be prepared to shift your strategy, accordingly,” Pink Visual’s Quentin Boyer told XBIZ. “This is even truer with respect to the mobile market, which changes at a pace that makes the ‘fixed’ web look like a senior citizen using a walker trying to keep up with Usain Bolt.”

One example, Boyer notes, would be the change in browsing market share among mobile devices, compared to browser market share in the PC sector.

“While browser market share has shifted over the years, it is nothing compared to the rise of Android in the last 18 months,” Boyer stated. “In other words, while Firefox and Google’s Chrome, etc. have eaten away at the share that [Microsoft’s Internet Explorer] once enjoyed, it took years and years for that to happen... Android went from nowhere to first place in 18 months.”

Despite this growth, however, website, mobile website and app usage seems in parity.

According to WhitePages COO Kevin Nakao, consumers use the mobile web just as much as they use apps — something the company discovered after “putting pedal to the metal on our apps while leaving our mobile website on cruise control.”

“Our iPhone app has been a Top 10 iPhone reference application for almost two years with almost six million downloads, and even with all of the great chart positions and visibility, just as many iPhone consumers use our mobile website as the application,” Nakao stated. “We are not alone; Comscore [recently reported] that 72 million mobile users accessed a website compared to 69 million users who used an application.”

“Both are showing more than 25 percent year-to-year growth,” Nakao added.

Experts recommend studying a website’s user analytics to determine the percentage of visitors arriving via mobile devices, as an indication of market demand for a mobile app or dedicated mobile website. A linear upgrade path can then be constructed, guiding mobile users from your standard website to a dedicated mobile website and then on to a fully featured mobile app, if sufficient demand is there.

“All else [being] equal, maximizing a firm’s mobile presence is going to increase the likelihood that users engage with its content, whether it is for brand recognition, selling goods or sharing content,” Raman stated, noting that before marketing ecommerce apps, it’s important to account for the 30 percent commission many app stores charge on sales made from within apps.

“The trick, of course, is figuring out if that loss is greater than the lost revenue that a business would miss from not having a mobile presence at all,” Raman concluded.