American Marketer


Which type of mobile channel should a business develop?

May 7, 2012

Thomas Coles is managing director of MSM Software


By Thomas Coles

As mobile becomes the hot topic in business strategies, are you questioning whether you have made the right choice?

Before you embark upon the mobile application train, take a second to think about why it may or may not work for your business.

Although you may think it beneficial to offer every single selling channel to your consumers – just in case they decide they might glance at it one morning on the work commute – in some instances it may be a wasted expense.

As with all business strategies, a new venture relies on designing appropriate objectives. If the finished strategy fails to meet these objectives, then its purpose was unnecessary.

However, a mobile channel may be a viable opportunity for a business and could potentially meet the objectives the business hopes to achieve.

But what type of mobile channel should a business develop, and what are the benefits?

There are currently three mobile channels that a business can choose to adopt: the mobile browser, the Web app – or mobile-optimized Web site – and the mobile native app. Each has benefits and drawbacks, and it is up to the business to decipher which will work to their advantage.

1. Let us start with the mobile browser. This is the brand’s Web site viewed on a mobile phone. It has not been touched by the Web site developers to optimize for a mobile screen, therefore displays exactly as you would view it on your computer.

Let us start with the advantages of this before I list the disadvantages. Of course, this is a cheap, in fact, priceless way of being accessed on the move. It costs the business nothing to allow the consumer to find their Web site by searching on the mobile browser.

Additionally, a consumer that is familiar with a particular business Web site may prefer to use the same service on her phone without any structural changes. Yet, this is as far as the advantages go.

2. The Web app, or alternatively named the mobile-optimized Web site, is an application designed to be accessed through the mobile Internet. It transfers the business’s ordinary Web site into an optimized format, switching tiny navigation keys to larger usable buttons, condensing information to be short and succinct and shifting images centrally within the screens boundaries.

The user does not need to manually pinch the screen to zoom in and out of navigation keys, or into large blocks of text, scrolling frantically right and left to read the end of the line.

Instead, the user is offered ease of use, a convenient format and the most useful information within user-friendly tabs. The advantages, therefore, are obvious. Convenience and ease of use are antecedents to consumer satisfaction and purchase intentions. Thus, the benefits for an online business are great.

3. The final option is the mobile native app, a downloadable application placed onto the mobile desktop.

Similar to the mobile Web app, the native app is a condensed and user-friendly version of a business’s products and services Web site.

The advantages are, however, additional.

Brand awareness and visibility is increased via the placement of the desktop logo, creating a constant reminder of the brand logo whenever the user unlocks her phone.

Alike to the Web app, the acts of product purchasing and information gathering are improved dramatically due to the ease of use for browsing and navigating.

Furthermore, the opportunities for mobile marketing are enhanced due to the advantages of push notifications.

A business is able to automatically notify a mobile user of the latest promotions, in store discounts or product arrivals via notifications that pop up on the mobile desktop. Most importantly, access to a business is fast, easy and at the touch of a button.

THE DISADVANTAGE to both of the app formats is, of course, the cost issue.

Developing what is potentially a second Web site, designed in a new format can take time and expense. However, it does not have to cost that much with real planning and design foresight.

A usable and simple Web app can be put together very quickly and cheaply, depending on who you know. Therefore, it all comes down to what you want to offer your consumers or clients.

If your target consumer is not going to use mobile channels to access your services, then a mobile strategy would not be a viable opportunity. Yet, if your consumer is an avid mobile user, your next question is, do I go native?

Thomas Coles is managing director of MSM Software, Exeter, England. Reach him at