Apps Versus Responsive Themes For WordPress

I’ve been doing a lot of research recently into systems that take WordPress content and package them as apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. So who wins in the apps versus responsive themes for WordPress battle?

The reason I am doing this is because I think native apps are a far better solution for mobile devices than responsive themes.

Don’t believe me read on.

First Some definitions

Let’s define the differences between a native app (app from now on) and a responsive theme.

Responsive Theme – there is some coding in your standard WordPress theme that recognises you are accessing the site on a mobile device and it automatically resizes your site.  Check out WPDude on a mobile phone to see a responsive theme in action.

A Native App – this is a piece of code that is generally distributed from the apps stores such as iTunes or the Google play store.  It is specifically written for mobile devices.  It’s not a website but in the examples I’m going to show you it can pull content from your existing WordPress site to populate the app.  The app can also tap into the features of your phone, something responsive themes cannot do.

My own native app is in development,  I’ll update this post once it is in the apps stores.

I’m not talking about the next Angry Birds, what I’m talking about is a marketing tool for you business much like your website but specifically tailored for a mobile device.

They Do The Same job

Apps and responsive theme do essentially the same job, they make your content and marketing messages easier to read on a mobile device, but I think apps trump responsive themes in a number of ways, and that is why I’m planning to pin my digital future to apps not mobile themes and I think you should too.

It’s A Smaller Pond

There are tens of millions of websites but only a few hundred thousands apps, get in early and you can corner your market.

My experience has been that people are searching for app solutions, if you can offer that and get your app on people’s devices you will be at the top of people’s minds and get that business.

Mobile Device Marketing Features

I bet you didn’t realised your mobile phone or iPad have built in marketing tools that your business can utilise.  Responsive themes cannot tap into these features only native apps written in the specific language of the devices can do this.

Some of the marketing features are:

Push Notifications – send messages to the device people nearly always have about their person.  you can make your app send notifications when you update content, or when you have a special offer.  Think of it as email direct to a device people hardly ever ignore. Inboxes are swamped but people don’t ignore their mobile notifications (yet but this may change).

Push To call – It’s a phone, you can create a massively simple and literal call to action, have a big button saying call us to take bookings and leads for your business.

Carry With You Features

The portability of your mobile device should also not be underestimated.  There are ways you can tap into the “always with the customer” mode.

Loyalty app –  people check in with their mobile phone to get benefits such as money off building brand loyalty.

GPS Features – the positioning system built in to most smartphones allows you access to a persons location, using that you can market to people in a number of special ways

Directions – give me a  map and step by step instructions to get to your physical location.

Geo-Fencing – If you have a message you want to push out to your app, but only to a set location, you can use geo-fencing.  Geo-fencing is a pretty new field of marketing, but essentially you set a fence around a physical location and only send push notifications in that area, perhaps an example is in order.  Say you have four physical locations and you are having a special offer in location A.  Set up a geo-fence or catchment area and send out messages only to people in that area about your offer.

GPS Couponing – if someone is in your location with their app, you can target them and send out a coupon.  With many bricks and mortar business, it’s all about bringing people through the door.  Targeting people in your current area can do this.

Photo capture – smart phones are also cameras, you can use camera functions to have your customers send you images.  For example if you run a Law Practise you could get your clients to photograph a car accident to add to your case file.

The Lay Back Device

I first heard this phrase describing iPads a couple of years ago, and I cannot agree more.  We are using our tablets for more detailed reading where we can step away from our desktop machines and really absorb text or video.

You settle down or lay back to consume stuff on your tablet, websites are fine for this, but if you have an app specifically designed for a tablet you can make that information consumption a better experience.

Control The Layout For The Device

When you code up a native app, one of the best features is the ability to exactly control the user experience.  Using buttons and gestures people are familiar with on their other apps makes your app wrapped website work really well.

Can you think of a time when you have been frustrated with a mobile website, I can, apps stop that frustration because they are designed and coded to work on that particular platform.

Other Things You Can Do With An App

The solutions I have been investigating also allow you to do the following:

  • Display content from your website, YouTube, podcasts etc
  • Capture emails into Mailchimp aweber etc
  • Sell things online
  • Coupons and offers
  • loyalty schemes
  • GPS functions such as route finders
  • Social media integration
  • Mobile scheduling for services or restaurants
  • Email forms to collect leads
  • Event attendance
  • Social media functions – think Facebook wall on your own app
  • … the list is growing as these systems advance.

You Have To Deliver Value With An App

Getting an app download requires a little more effort than visiting a website so you need to answer the question “what’s in it for me” loud and clear.

  • It could be money off with a loyalty app or discounts
  • It could be education with videos or posts
  • It could be ease of use such as mobile booking

what ever it is you need to add value before you can start to market to people via apps.

Once you have that download you have a great new avenue to sell your business through.

The Shiny New Thing Factor

There is definitely an aspect of shiny new thing, and an app is shinier than a website but does a very similar job.  but I recommend you get into the app game now so your app is on people’s phones before your competitions.  Stake your claim to a piece of their screen real estate now. I particularly recommend this if your target demographic is youthful and uses their mobile a lot.

Advertising Revenue

If you are a producer of content rather than a business with products or services, then mobile advertising may be for you,

In my experience, mobile ads perform much better than website ads by a large factor.

My Own Experience

– if there is an app for my preferred sites I’ll use that over a browser experience.  Here are some of the apps I use over the website

  • Basecamp
  • Freshbooks
  • Evernote
  • Mailchimp
  • WoedPress
  • Skype
  • Paypal
  • Domino’s Pizza (yes I know that says a lot about me)
  • Odeon (that’s our local cinema app)
  • Feedly – so I can consume feeds in my lay back mode.

That’s The Why Now The How

I know this has been a long posts and  I have only just scratched the surface of apps for business, I’ll be going much deeper on the topics in the coming month if there is an appetite for this topic.

In my next post on the subject I’ll tell you the various tools I have been experimenting with, and how you can get your very own business app.

Are you interested in apps for your business? Leave your comments below if you have any questions about apps that I can answer from my research.

Photo Credit: tausend und eins, fotografie via Compfight cc

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