August 18th, 2015 | 2 MIN READ

Do Shoppers Prefer Native Apps or Mobile Websites?

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Mobile apps are expected to drive over 40% of mobile sales for the top 500 retailers this year, not to mention mobile's contribution to in-store sales.

But research by Forrester commissioned by RetailMeNot suggests mobile shoppers prefer mobile websites to native apps for all but using stored-value cards in-store.


For those that do prefer mobile apps, convenience, speed and stored settings top the list of benefits, followed by incentives/rewards, personalized content and access to "better deals."


With mobile app development costing upwards of $2 million per platform, and 80% of that per year for maintenance, retailers need to justify the investment in mobile apps.

According to Forrester's State of Online Retailing report, mobile is the top priority, but nearly 60% of retailers say apps are not a key component of their mobile strategy.

Do you need a mobile app?

The reality check is only 5% of time spent using mobile apps is shopping related, and 60% of consumers have 2 or fewer apps installed (21% have none). Mobile apps are only downloaded by your die-hards, and can easily be nixed in favor of more entertainment/utility apps.

There's no indication that those that prefer mobile apps are unsatisfied with the mobile websites of retailers without apps, and with HTML5, it's possible to make your mobile web site very app-like while accessible to all mobile visitors. When it comes to mobile investment, customers may be better served by continual improvement of your mobile web experience.

For some brands and retailers, a mobile app is essential. Consider Walgreen's prescription refill app, Starbucks' pre-loaded payment cards, eBay's on-the-go auction alerts, Amazon's showrooming features and any retailer that wants to use beacons or pair with wearable devices. But to deliver significant return-on-investment, these apps must provide a significant benefit over using the mobile web, and be matched with a passionate customer base willing to download and regularly use the app.

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