Smartphones have changed the way people expect to interact with websites on the internet.
55% of internet traffic is from phones and it continues to grow. And 46% of consumers complete the entire purchase process on their phone. This is why we have an article on stats that show why your ecommerce site needs to be mobile-first.
In this article we’re explaining why your mobile-first ecommerce site needs to be a web app.
The App cost dilemma
Apps are eating websites. They’re nicer to use. They’re designed for mobile. They look better on mobile. They have user interaction features that are familiar and designed to make navigation and content consumption intuitive.
This leads to the obvious decision as part of your business strategy to invest in building an app to stay competitive.
But there are a couple of important drawbacks with this strategy.
Your traditional native app is costly to build and maintain. You need to build two of them, one for iOS and one for Android, if you don’t want to lose half your market. And you need to keep your website running for desktop browsers.
Because you need an app you’re suddenly supporting three different platforms and bearing a sudden spike in costs.
Will having an app increase your revenue enough to pay for multiple platforms and still turn a profit?
How long will it take to see a positive ROI if you go down this path?
This spike in costs is why native apps are often out of reach to SMBs and they find themselve losing market share to better funded or simply larger competitors.
Investing in a web app, instead of a native app, is how SMBs can avoid the cost spike and still compete on mobile.
Avoiding the high cost of apps
A web app can be thought of as a fancy website, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket can be thought of as a fancy plane. Technically, they use the same foundation, and even some of the same materials and technology, but the final product, and how it performs, is quite different.
A web app uses advanced frameworks that run in the browser (like React, Svelte, Vue, Angular), to create the same kind of rich interfaces that you find in a native app. There are limitations, because a web app runs inside of the browser on the phone, which impacts performance and access to device features, but unless you want to build a game or access the phone hardware, most businesses don’t need to worry about them.
Because web apps are built with web technologies – meaning they are designed to run within a browser – their single code base can be built to work across all phones, tablets and desktops. Wherever there is a browser they can run. Even on some smart TVs. In practice, a lower threshold is set on the performance requirements, based on your intended market, in order to ensure quality of the user experience.
Using a single web app code base to run across phones, tablets and desktops means web apps don’t create the expensive spike in costs that comes with supporting multiple platforms.
In fact, a web app makes it possible to generate revenue across all platforms, allowing you to observe where you should invest more money and possibly take your web app to the next level.
Taking your web app to the next level
One of the most powerful features of web apps is that anyone can purchase from your business on the internet. You don’t have to go through an app store review process or pay 30% to tan app store provider.
Once your web app is live on the internet you will learn a lot. You will learn which platform is your most profitable. You may discover that it will be worth the investment and the fees to turn your web app into a native app.
If you build your web app with the right framework, such as React, you may have already paid for a substantial part of a native app’s development.
You already have the backend paid for and working. All that is left is the interface. With multiple platforms generating revenue, and insights gathered over the months or years your web app has been running, creating a native app might now be feasible.
Tools like React Native can make it cost effective to finally add dedicated support to iOS or Android platforms (depending on your numbers). Using React Native avoids the full re-code to create a native app if, and only if, you built your web app frontend using React.
Web apps for the win online
The internet is the most competitive market in the world. Because it is the entire world online. Pursuing a web app based strategy gives you access to the largest cross section of customers across platforms. Risks are further mitigated by the lower cost in development compared to native apps, the speed with which you can launch new versions without app store approval delays, and greater revenue since you are not paying a 30% share to an app store.
At the same time, launching with a web app gives you a foundation of revenue and feedback that will help you make the move into native apps for your customers if the numbers show it makes sense.
If you want to talk more about how building a custom web app can be part of your business strategy, get in contact with us.