Game of Thrones — Mobile Web vs Mobile Apps. What Future Holds?

In the game of thrones between mobile web (Chrome) and Mobile App, I have always wondered why mobile web, in spite of its universality, has lost to mobile apps, which work in a sandbox environment.

While mobile apps enjoy majority of mobile consumption, it is most likely that the first interaction of a user will be with your mobile web digital property. If the first user interaction is good, then the decision to install the mobile app dawns upon the user. Thus, having a highly engaged user base on apps calls for due importance to your mobile web properties as well. This was what Myntra understood post going mobile app only way.

The achilles heel of mobile web has been its slow page loading speed along with poorly created third party properties making it all the more slow. Below data may just establish this fact:

  • Page load time > 1 sec leads to user context switching
  • Avg Page Load Time is 19 secs on mobile web
  • 70% mobile pages is takes10 secs to load
  • 49% of users bounce off if a page takes 10 secs or more to load

Another mind boggling stat- 88% of users are less likely to return to your site after a bad experience, hence less load time means more visitors, hence more revenue.

Just because mobile apps have the inherent property of being fast, it doesn’t mean that they lead to friction-less discovery of content.

Below are some flaws in mobile apps as a content discovery and consumption platform:

1. Discovery of App
 With more than 1 Billion apps in playstore, almost 60% of apps do not get to see a single download. Such is the volume of apps in playstore that to get discovered, you will need some professional marketing help. But, be ready to pay somewhere in the range of INR 20 to INR 70 basis your targeting parameters and channel of acquisition used.

2. Process for installation of app:
 Every step, from loading a store to opening app, drops off 20% users.

3. Link sharing:
 Each page on web has its URL. However, apps have URIs that can be opened only if the app is installed on the user’s device. Sharing of app screen is a broken functionality.

4. Retention of apps:
 Of the average 26 apps on an Indian user’s mobile device, Facebook, Whatsapp, and the Google basket apps (Youtube, Playstore, Photos, Maps, Gmail, Music, Hangout, Play Movies, Drive, Voice Search) take the most of the space. This substantially abridges the probability of retaining any other app on a user’s device in view of continually evolving user needs.

Mitigating the disadvantages of both the platforms, Google has taken some valiant steps in order to bridge these broken links for both Mobile web and Mobile App. Like a fair mother, Google treats its two children, Mobile Web (Chrome) and Playstore, as equal and gives them equal opportunity to establish their supremacy for the throne. It is only us who favor apps more than mobile web.

To digress a little, ever since 2016 when the number of Google searches from mobile surpassed desktop, Google has gone into overdrive to improve content consumption experience on mobile.

Below are a few initiatives made at Google I/O:

For Mobile Web:
 1) Mobile First Indexing
 2) AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
 3) PWA (Progressive Web Apps)

For Mobile Apps:
 1) Instant Apps

How exactly above initiatives will solve or attempt to solve issues in respective platforms will be covered in my next blog post. For now, I can stick my neck out and foresee following things happening in the next 2 years:

1) Mobile Search will continue to lead content discovery
 2) Mobile web strategy in terms of content coverage to be aggressive since mobile first indexing will start rolling out by mid 2017
 3) Number of organic app installs may fall, but retention rates will increase because the use case of just in case users will diminish with instant apps
 4) Content Publishing for android users (Jelly Bean and above) will be centered around either mobile web or instant app serving content directly from search results
 5) Avg mobile web load time will come down with AMP, PWA and AMP+PWA experience.