Posted: November 26, 2012, 1:24 PM

Q: Should I prioritize mobile retail apps or a mobile commerce site?

Should I build a native iOS/Android/Windows phone app for my retailer, or make my customers use the browser version?

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A: You have to have a mobile web site; apps are good when you have many loyal customers.

Having a mobile commerce web site accessible through any mobile web browser is priority No. 1 in m-commerce. A mobile site affords the greatest reach, as it is not designed like an app specifically for one mobile operating system that represents just one segment of mobile shoppers. While mobile apps offer richer features and functions, m-commerce sites can be made to function similarly to apps through using the advanced web programming language HTML5.

You should consider offering an app if you have a core group of loyal customers, individuals likely to download an app and use it from time to time. Loyal customers will welcome an app over an m-commerce site because a well-designed app will provide a greater and faster shopping experience. Look to your web logs to see where your mobile traffic is coming from to decide for which mobile operating systems you should build an app. Odds are you are getting more traffic from iPhone owners; and iPhone owners shop more and spend more money. Android likely would be the next priority. Few retailers have built shopping apps for mobile operating systems other than iPhone and Android.

The bottom line: You have to have an m-commerce web site today; apps are good when you have a large group of loyal customers. And very important: Remember to promote your mobile offerings everywhere, from e-mails to the e-commerce site home page to store signs to ads.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

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