The digital world is in the midst of a decisive shift to mobile devices, and for years the app has reigned supreme. In fact, apps were supposed to effectively bury the mobile web with their superior small-screen interfaces, dedicated presence, and added entertainment value.
However, new data indicates that mobile web browsing has refused to fade into the background and let apps rise to device dominance. Instead, mobile browsing is driving the new mobile economy — and retailers who sell online aren’t doing enough to keep up with the trend. BI Intelligence reports that just nine percent of retailers are offering responsive design for mobile websites, with the majority focusing on dedicated apps instead.
Why apps appear to be winning
There’s plenty of data out there to support the idea that mobile apps rule. Recent comScore research found that 51 percent of all time spent on digital media is spent in apps, compared to nine percent in mobile browsers. Data from Nielsen finds that mobile devices users 18 and older spend more than 30 hours on mobile apps each month — an 85 percent increase in two years. Comparatively, the average time spent on the PC internet per month is 27 hours.
However, none of these staggering statistics take into account where the money is flowing from — and when it comes to mobile purchases, it’s all about browsers.
Web-driven mobile cashing in
While the isolate app approach can work as a mobile website replacement for simple sites, it’s simply not viable for larger multi-page websites that rely on search to drive traffic. Data from comScore offers a lengthy list of informational sites that are almost entirely web-driven, including Wikimedia, WebMD, Craigslist, and Answers.com. But it’s not just consumer information that relies on web searches — the list also includes commerce-heavy retail sites like Wal-Mart, Sears, and Best Buy.
Digital market research firm eMarketer reports that in 2014, 58 percent of retail m-commerce sales totaling $57 billion will have been derived from the mobile web, rather than apps. And survey data from ADI finds that 51 percent of mobile shoppers prefer mobile browsers over apps.
Taking your business mobile
Even though the majority of mobile commerce happens through the web, most retailers aren’t positioned to take advantage of this trend. An over-reliance on apps has seen widespread neglect of mobile web development — BI Intelligence reports, in addition to a very low nine percent of retailers offering responsive mobile web design, only 60 percent of the top 100 global retailers have dedicated mobile websites.
In addition to delivering what consumers want, a move toward mobile web design will make Google happy with you, too. The search engine giant is now rewarding mobile-inclined sites as it continues to test labeling websites “mobile-friendly” and using that criteria as a ranking signal.
Companies using mobile responsive design are more likely to be visible to their target audience on mobile, and more likely to increase mobile sales by providing the type of interface that keeps shoppers coming back for more.