October 12, 2010, 5:38 PM

Start with an app, not a site or text, expert at forum advises

Well-executed apps for the iPhone and Android devices offer better experiences.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

Bryant Shea

While m-commerce web sites may offer great reach in that anyone with a mobile web browser can access them, and while text messaging provides a way to reach consumers in a more personal and immediate way than e-mail, mobile apps provide the greatest customer experience in mobile commerce, and most mobile web users are on smartphones that run apps.

That was the conclusion of Bryant Shea, vice president of the innovation group, which covers content management and mobile commerce, at consulting firm Isobar. Shea spoke at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2010 today in a session titled “Apps, sites, text marketing: Where to begin.”

“If you’re going to be focused on any area, it’s apps for the iPhone and Android,” Shea said, saying the vast majority of mobile web traffic comes from mobile devices using Apple Inc.’s iOS4 operating system and Google Inc.’s Android operating system. “Why do you want to focus on an app instead of a mobile site? Because the experience is better.”

Things are changing on the mobile web, however. The newest Internet mark-up language, HTML5, enables developers to create mobile web sites that can access some of a smartphone’s more advanced features, like the GPS system. But HTML5 has limited access—apps can do more, and do it better, Shea said. This is because apps can make the fullest use of a smartphone’s features, and can store on the device much of the data, often graphical in nature, to render a screen of content, rather than the phone having to reach out to a web server to access content, as an m-commerce does. Storing data on the device greatly improves speed and performance.

“You want to be able to provide the best experience possible, and right now that is a native app,” Shea said. “Right now, if you want to have a good mobile experience, you do not want to put the native app on the back burner.”

Comments | 1 Response

  • A quick follow up to my session, I believe for most companies focusing on applications provides the best opportunity to provide unique services to their customers with the best user experience. I am not recommending, however, you completely neglect your mobile website. Companies need to have a site that is functional on mobile devices (even if that site has limited functionality and suggests user download a native applications). Choosing where to focus your efforts involves a lot of variables and there is no one solution that will work for every situation. I mentioned in the presentation that m-commerce initiatives can be grouped into four categories: Transactional, Promotional, Brand as Services and In-Store enhancement. Depending on where you decide to focus, your customers demographics, the goals for mobile, budget, etc you might choose to focus more time on an application or a website. Native application currently offer the best user experience in addition to offering a much broader feature set to developers, however, the real keys to mobile success are: Speed and Flexibility. The market is changing quickly, you need an infrastructure and content model that can adapt and short duration initiatives (that map to your longer term strategy) if you want to see solid results. Bryant

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