Far from being a luxury, latest Statista figures reveal that smartphones and tablets have become a common feature of everyday life, as over 90% of people around the world use their mobile devices to go online, while mobile users currently account for more than 58% of total website traffic globally.
According to Slyde Nikurawu, Business Operations Director at Nerdware, these statistics demonstrate the incredible potential of mobile devices for engaging digital audiences and unlocking powerful business growth.
“Against this backdrop, mobile apps particularly are giving companies a significant competitive advantage through improving their customer communication and engagement and creating direct marketing channels with useful features and services,” he says.
“But to optimise your online business presence, it’s important to understand the differences between a native application and progressive web application and choose the best option for your specific business needs.”
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all well-known examples of native apps, which are apps that have been developed for a specific operating system and use the native language of the devices, such as Android or iOS.
As a result, native apps are generally able to offer higher speeds and a wider variety of advanced features than their progressive web app (PWA) counterparts. Additionally, native apps can function effectively even when users are offline through making use of local storage, cached data and smoothly synchronising with the cloud.
“Plus, through combining the best of both hardware and software capabilities of individual operating systems, these apps generally provide superior performance and flawless customer experiences. For example, native apps will have full access to a mobile device’s features such as GPS, camera, microphone and contact list,” notes Nikurawu.
“Having seamless access to a mobile devices’ hardware also means that native apps are generally able to provide improved security and data protection such as two-factor authentication.”
However, native apps can be costly, requiring two separate development teams for Android and iOS devices. Studies further reveal that the installation process can also be a drawback, losing as many as 20% of users per step from the user’s first contact with the app to finding it in the app store, downloading it, signing up and finally using the app. Finally, native apps are not able to boost or benefit from a brand’s search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts, and generally consume larger amounts of memory.
Progressive Web Applications
“A PWA is a combination of a website and mobile application. Put differently, these are accelerated websites that use web browser software, but look like and behave like apps,” explains Nikurawu.
“By plugging into existing web ecosystems, these are much simpler and more cost-effective to develop, and offer wider compatibility across devices than native apps.”
Like native apps, mobile users can also download these web apps to their home screens, making them easily accessible for audiences. Additionally, PWAs offer companies the opportunity to engage audiences through push notifications, and while new content will only become available on the app when mobile devices are connected to the internet, users can still use the PWAs when offline.
Their web-based foundation means that businesses with PWAs are able to benefit from SEO, and that the apps generally requires smaller amounts of mobile devices’ memory. And finally, the apps are becoming more secure with the introduction of new security features, as well as hosting over HTTPS in order to prevent attacks.
There are drawbacks to PWAs, however, as they require internet access to function optimally, which means that they can drain batteries more quickly. Mobile devices are also required to work harder to interpret the code used by the app, placing further strain on the battery. Finally, these apps offer more limited functionality and hardware access than native apps.
“Your company’s business goals and digital marketing needs will dictate which app is the most suitable for you,” adds Nikurawu.
“If your goal is to boost brand awareness and SEO while reaching a wide audience, but you have time and budget restraints, then a PWA could be suitable for your business. By contrast, if you’re looking to complement your value proposition or customer experience through more advanced features such as geofencing in order to build your brand’s credibility, a native app could be more suitable.
“If you’re uncertain or need expert guidance on your digital marketing strategy, however, it’s best to consult a dedicated agency such as Nerdware who can advise you on making best use of mobile apps and technology for your business.”