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Apps or Mobile Sites?

In a professional as well as a personal capacity I’ve been wondering for some time now where the greatest opportunity lies for the mobile marketer.

The argument for apps

In my professional and personal life I use both fairly regularly and to be completely honest I find that most of the apps that I do use to be really convenient and useful with well designed UI’s to make the accessing of information that bit easier.

The other thing to bear in mind (which is even more significant) is that Apps have that “cool factor”.  Brands want a presence in the App stores with their own apps, but is this primarily for the positive brand association with Apple or Google than for pure direct commercial returns? For smaller or lesser known brands, unless your  app does something pretty cool, its pretty easy for it to get lost in the ether, there are over 100k apps for iPad alone, which makes it very difficult to be seen or heard (let alone someone actually going to the bother of actually opening your app and doing something commercially beneficial to you as a result!) and then there is also the cost of development to consider….

Undoubtedly, there is still lots of growth potential in the apps space, Apple have not quite reached world domination as yet, but they would like to grow from the  5% penetration rate that they believe they have as announced by new CEO Tim Cook only last week and App downloads are projected to hit 98 million annually by 2015 according to Berg Insight. However, in terms of the mobile handset how big actually is this?

So What About the Mobile Site?

The mobile advertising space is where the truly astonishing numbers are. A very recent report by Singapore based mobile advertising network Buzzcity would indicate that the real wins are not to be had in the crowded apps space in a limited number of western economies, but actually in the emerging markets where the feature phone is still king. Buzzcity report that 52% of their mobile advertising traffic is on Nokia devices in the emerging markets. Given that handset penetration in these markets is still less than 100%,  that growth towards 100% is likely to come from greater uptake of cheaper low end devices initially and that one of Nokia’s stated aims (in the famous burning platform speech) is to target production of low end devices in emerging markets there is likely to be enormous opportunities here. In the words of Wayne Gretzky’s father in teaching a legend of the sport

 “skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been”

Lets take Vietnam for example, according to Buzzcity

…..Vietnam to enter the ‘Billion club’, as the markets that receive more than one billion ads per quarter.

this is a truly astonishing figure in terms of potential market scale (and this is only the third biggest market in South East Asia) and every one of these impressions must have been served on a device on the mobile internet and thus in a position to access mobile sites.  Mobile sites are also increasingly easy to produce with a myriad of tools available free online to allow even non coders to develop reasonably high quality mobile web rendered sites of high quality.

Also, to drive traffic to these sites, the advertiser may buy advertising on a performance basis and still may do so very cheaply compared to other, less measurable advertising media and with a variety of analytics and tracking tools available as simple plugins for these sites the whole customer experience may be not only tracked but also optimised to drive higher conversions and higher value subsequently.

So where is the marketing budget for mobile headed?

For my money, I’d still be convinced that the brands will opt for the apps route, primarily because of the aforementioned positive brand association and cool factor, however if it was my money I think I’d be taking the mobile sites route!

By Simon Bell

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