Going Mobile: Does Your Small Business Need an App?


Mobile is the new digital frontier for any business looking to succeed. With more smartphones than people in the United States, and a greater percentage of your customers searching for businesses like yours on mobile devices, you can’t afford not to have a presence that’s optimized for mobile. But do you need a dedicated app for your small business?

When it comes to mobile, most businesses offer a mobile website, a mobile app, or both. It’s important to understand the difference between a website that’s optimized for mobile and a mobile app, so you can make an informed decision about which is the best option for increasing your company’s mobile presence.

Mobile Websites Are…

Just like a regular website, a mobile website is hosted on the Internet and accessed through a Web browser. Mobile visitors get to your website by clicking on a link on their device (such as from an email or search engine) or typing the address into a mobile browser. The difference is that mobile and mobile-optimized websites are designed for use with smaller screens and touch screens, instead of static desktop or laptop monitors.

Mobile websites are often streamlined and simplified, with clean layouts and responsive design principles. In other words, they’re designed to translate seamlessly between devices, so that visitors have the same experience whether they’re viewing your website on an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Mini. Responsive mobile websites automatically detect a viewer’s device settings and adapt appropriately to the display.

Mobile Apps Are…

Unlike websites, mobile applications (apps) are independent programs. They are downloaded and installed on a mobile device, rather than accessed through a browser. Typically, apps are obtained through an app marketplace like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Mobile apps can be free or paid, but most companies offer their apps free to consumers in favor of marketing value.

Features of Mobile Websites and Apps

Though mobile optimized websites and mobile apps are not the same thing, they typically offer the same features—especially those that make it easier for mobile device users to find and reach your small business. Some of these common features include:

  • Mobile Marketing: Both mobile sites and apps offer capabilities for email and text-based marketing campaigns, such as loyalty programs and permission-based email lists.
  • Social Sharing: Mobile viewers can easily share content from your app or mobile website with integrated social sharing buttons.
  • Mobile Commerce: More customers are purchasing online and using their mobile devices to shop. Mobile apps and optimized websites allow your visitors to purchase your products or services from their smartphones or tablets.
  • One Click Calling: For those viewing your app or mobile site on a smartphone, this feature lets visitors call your business with a single tap.
  • Click to Map: This feature lets mobile device users tap to locate your business and get instant directions using their devices’ GPS, without having to manually enter your address into a GPS program or website like Google Maps.

So, which mobile solution should your business choose? Below are the advantages of each type of mobile access for your small business.

The Benefits of Mobile Websites

With a mobile optimized website, both PC and mobile device users can easily access and interact with your small business website. A mobile site can include all the features and elements of your regular version, but incorporate a mobile-friendly layout for better functionality and readability from a mobile device.

Mobile websites help you to ensure a seamless experience for all of your visitors, no matter where or when they access your website.

The Benefits of Mobile Apps

Because they are downloaded and installed, dedicated mobile apps can give your business the advantage of greater presence on customer devices. Mobile apps can give you more control, with features such as geo-targeted push notifications that alert device owners when they’re near your business, and data collection capacities that help you personalize your marketing.

In addition, mobile apps are easier to access on devices, and can help to streamline marketing strategies such as text-based loyalty programs and single-platform mobile payments.

Whether you’re developing a mobile website or a mobile app, there are generally two avenues to choose: you can do it yourself with the many tools available for mobile optimized website and mobile app development, or work with a professional developer to create your mobile presence.

The choice of whether to use a mobile site or a mobile app depends on the needs of your particular business, and the amount of emphasis you want to place on mobile marketing.

Businessman Photo via Shutterstock