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Mobile App Vs Mobile Friendly Site

What's the difference between mobile-friendly sites and mobile apps?  I get asked this question a lot and it's a fair question.  Mobile-Friendly sites are great for informational purposes, but that's about it.  Think of websites or mobile-friendly sites as digital brochures for prospects that aren't customers yet.  Their main purpose is to provide information to get prospects to call or provide their contact information to learn more.

Mobile apps are used more to keep existing customers more informed and engaged with your company, products or services.  They target loyal customers who already know and love your brand.  Existing customers are more willing to download your app, because it offers some form of value.  Mobile apps are used to help keep existing customers engaged using features like "push notifications" or some other feature.  Mobile apps also change and update their content on a more regular basis to keep things interesting.  

Here are a few more reasons how mobile-friendly sites differ from mobile app use.

Customer Experience

The main problem I see with mobile-friendly sites is that they're not optimized solely for mobile use.  Websites are traditionally formatted for desktop use first, then mobile.  Some sites are very robust with a lot of functionality and features, which make for great desktop use, but not ideal for mobile devices.  

Mobile-friendly sites are great for offering limited information, but not ideal for creating an ideal customer experience.  Companies that only offer a mobile-friendly option, can actually  cause frustration and damage their brand.  In fact, Google states that “61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile website they had trouble accessing and over 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.”. With poor functionality, you’re sending your customers directly to your competition that provides a better mobile experience.

Websites trying to blend into two different functions never really optimize well for both.  It's best to optimize websites for desktop use and create mobile apps to address mobile users.    


Mobile apps offer a different experience from the company's website.  It's an opportunity for companies to share their personality and core values in a very personalized way.  Companies can let their customers know about upcoming events, promotions and other valuable information.  Anytime you can offer personalized content, you have a higher chance of making a conversion.

Important to note that customers willing to download your app, value your business over your competitors.  They're taking up valuable space on their device for your app and they're integrating your company into their daily lives.

Even when your customers are not using your app, they're reminded of the brand associated with the app.  Having your app on their phones is a tremendous opportunity for hyper-targeting marketing that is unmatched on any other medium.

Customer Engagement

Mobile apps allow businesses to become more immersed in their mobile experience.  It's a destination app, where customers choose to open that app, because it somehow fits into their lives or offers tremendous value to the customer.  Mobile apps offer businesses the ability to address user pain points and make it easier for users to achieve their goals.  They can access information quicker and cut through the noise normally associated with marketing efforts.  in fact, 83% of mobile users say that a seamless experience is very important.

Habit Driven

Make sure you have offer valuable content on your brand or company to keep users coming back for more.  Look at companies like Facebook, snapchat and other companies that create habit forming opportunities for their customers to engage.  Mobile apps can take advantage of mobile device features that mobile-friendly sites cannot match.  Mobile apps an push notifications to their customer at targeted times offering value.  Mobile apps can invite customers to use their camera features to share content and engage with other customers that know and love their brand.  Mobile-friendly sites lack this component, because they were made with the intent to deliver content through desktop computers first.