3 June 2020 Luke Goldsworthy

The Power of Mobile Experiences During COVID

As the coronavirus pandemic kept us in various levels of isolation, we turned to our smartphones for connecting to the internet – and this despite them being mobile devices and most of us being stuck at home with desktop, laptop and tablet options. 

A study by Statista published last week surveying the first three months of 2020 in the UK, a comparable market to Australia, found that “significantly more people identified smartphones as their most important device for accessing the internet, compared with those that nominated each of the large display formats combined.” Of respondents, 60% named their smartphone, followed by laptop (16%), tablet (12%) and desktop (8%).

Apart from the improved performance of smartphones, there has also been a vast increase in available bandwidth for mobile devices – something that will further pump with the deployment of 5G networks. These factors along with the habitual changes that have occurred during the Covid-19 lockdown have cemented the smartphone as the leading portal to the internet.

These findings are likely confirmed by your own experiences, and demonstrate the acceleration of a trend towards mobile dominance that existed pre-pandemic. Recognising this, it’s increasingly essential that your business has a mobile-optimised online presence. This can be achieved through a native app, a mobile-responsive site, a dedicated mobile site or a Progressive Web Application. Each of these has pros and cons.

Native Mobile App

A mobile app or application is a piece of software downloaded onto a users phone, which performs a limited and specific task usually through a dedicated site. Examples of retail mobile apps are The Home Depot, H&M, Target, Best Buy and Lululemon. They provide a range of features including order tracking, instant checkout, product searches (both online and bricks and mortar), loyalty programs, location-based offers, and general customer information.

The advantages of a native mobile app;

  • speed when using, 
  • potential offline availability, 
  • utilising native mobile features such as its cameras and GPS location.

The downsides are;

  • the ‘app’ must first be downloaded for each device, 
  • it must be constantly maintained,
  • separate codebase
  • additional skilled resources required internally or engaging a 3rd party.
  • new features or any update, the customer must download
  • they are platform-specific therefore, limited to the specific mobile devices.

Mobile-Responsive Site

A mobile-responsive website dynamically adjusts and is optimised by the screen size, orientation and platform, and to adjust the site layout to suit. 

Examples of mobile-responsive retail websites are:

  • Kingliving.com.au (Created by Playhouse Group)
  • radio-rentals.com.au (Created by Playhouse Group)
  • hickoryfarms.com, Garmin, magazines.com, and thegrommet.com. 

These sites immediately adjust to the customer’s device, and provide fast and clean navigation, with minimal scrolling or resizing.  This demonstrates why platforms like Magento combined with great UI/UX, matter.

The advantages of mobile-responsive websites are;

  • relatively low cost, 
  • content can be used across all platforms,
  • maintain consistency across all devices and platforms,
  • have a single URL for access.
  • a single code base, product catalogue and 
  • a CMS that runs across mobile, tablet and desktop

The downsides can be;

  • is that they do not always provide a mobile-specific interface.  

However, with the powerful Magento platform, the performance can very much deal with and potentially overcome any hesitation to Mobile experience for eCommerce.

Playhouse sees this mobile experience as the ‘must-have’ for any business, big or small, eCommerce or not.  Most clients go this path first mainly because it is being built in conjunction with the client’s main web pages.  A big cost and time-saving.

Dedicated Mobile Site

A dedicated mobile website is a second, separate website, which presents content specifically for mobile devices. When a customer seeks to access a URL from a mobile device, it automatically redirects to the mobile version, usually with an m.dot prefix. 

The advantages are small compared to others. 

  • dedicated mobile websites are that content is tailored to mobile devices,
  • can be fast, and 
  • they can be quick and cheap to launch if there is already an existing primary website.

The disadvantages, however;

  • having multiple URLs can impact SEO performance, 
  • often require redirection which slows access, and 
  • they are extra work and costs because both websites need to be maintained.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

An emerging and real solid option is Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which draw together the advantages of a mobile and a dedicated website. 

The advantages of PWA include:

  • Fast 

By enabling background processing, which accelerates page load time tremendously, PWA’s deliver a much faster experience. On a mobile device, even a 1-second delay can increase the bounce rate by almost 50% and decrease conversion by 20%.

  • Integration

PWAs integrate more tightly with native hardware than regular web sites which makes them feel more like a native app from a user experience perspective – seamless and integrated.

  • Reliability

Caching your content means faster performance, but also making your site available online and offline when you have a limited network or wifi connectivity. 

  • Customer Engagement

A faster and more reliable experience drives user engagement.  The more engaged a user is the more likely they are to buy and be retained as a customer.  PWA’s also have the ability to send push notifications, helping to drive ongoing engagement with the experience.

Playhouse ranks for the ability of, speed to market, costs and usability, both for customers and for maintenance of the mobile experience by our clients;

  1. Mobile Responsive
  2. PWA
  3. Native App

Playhouse recommends only doing a Mobile Site as a last resort and avoid if possible mainly because of the customer experience. 

It is a very common question we are asked when doing website build and rebuilds/ re-platform projects, “do we do an App” and they’re good reasons not to over-invest in an App before understanding what is best for your business and most importantly your customers.

Mobile responsive and Progressive Web App are more times than not, the best option for any business.

We’ve dedicated a blog post to discussing PWAs, which you can read here. 

Not quite clear on which option is best for you, click the button below to set up a no-obligation appointment, or drop an email to our team.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.