Should You Invest in Promoting Your Mobile Site or Mobile App?

yaeltolubThe following is a guest contributed post to MMW from Yael Tolub, the VP of Marketing  at Clicktale.

There is no doubt about it: mobile is no longer “nice to have.” Mobile has grown so fast that it’s now the leading digital platform, with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for 62 percent of digital media time spent, according to comScore. Everywhere you look: Shutterfly, Etsy, Buzzfeed, Google Maps, Amazon – there are examples of amazing mobile experiences.

Marketers no longer have to decide whether to invest in mobile marketing. Instead, they are faced with deciding between marketing their mobile apps or mobile sites (or both?).

To fast forward to the needed answer is to disclose that there is no one right answer for every business. When deciding between mobile app and mobile site marketing, the right answer will depend on your needs, your goals, and your audience.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s break it down.

Thought-provoking mobile statistics

Though it may differ slightly per audience segment, in general:

  • Emarketer reports that in 2015, users spent nearly 3 hours per day on their mobile devices
  • TechCrunch tells us that 85% of that time is spent in mobile apps (approximately 150 minutes, by my calculation)
  • Comscore reports that 88% of that time is spent in the user’s top five apps and 97% (approximately 145 minutes, again – my number) in the top 10 apps – including social media, games, news, radio, messaging, etc.

Basically, this means that the top apps are thriving. Facebook, Angry Birds, Evernote, and Snapchat are golden. Apps that are not in the record books, however, have a different experience altogether – they are competing for the 5 minutes per day a user spends in mobile apps, but not in the top 10.

If your users consider your app one of their favorites (or if such a goal is attainable), investing in marketing your mobile app may be wise.

When it comes to mobile web, the reach is broader and the pot seems to be more evenly shared among the players:

  • In the top 1,000 mobile websites, the average monthly unique visitors is 8.9 million (compared to 3.3 million for apps), and is growing rapidly


Marketing your mobile site may have greater chance for positive ROI if yours is not Twitter or Candy Crush.

  • This year, in-app advertising will cost advertisers over $30 billion, while mobile web will total just over $10 billion


If you monetize your app through advertising, then investing in its growth may be worthwhile.

  • Google indexes content from within apps and has over 100 billion links within apps When Google finds in-app content that points to a mobile app you don’t already have installed on your smartphone, it will offer you the option to “stream” the app instead. Also, sites that are responsive, appearing and performing well on a variety of devices, appear higher on Google search results.

This points to a benefit of investing the marketing budget in the site and letting Google index the app on its own.

  • The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), as coined by Google, tells marketers that “If you’re available at the Zero Moment of Truth, your customers will find you at the very moment they’re thinking about buying, and also when they’re thinking about thinking about buying.”

Understanding your users’ journey is critical information when deciding how to allocate marketing spend.

So, which do you choose to promote?

If your business has both an amazing mobile app and a spectacular mobile site, which should you dedicate your marketing efforts to, first and foremost?

Again, this depends on where your business is in its growth process and what your acquisition and retention goals are:

Mobile App Marketing Use Case

Invest in marketing your mobile app if: you want fewer users, but ones who will have a long lifetime value and spend more time using your interface.

Mobile Site Marketing Use Case

Invest in marketing your mobile site if: you want as many visitors as possible and if your mobile site is one platform within the buyer journey (i.e., offering Click to Call options).

An omni-channel strategy

Both investments, as with all marketing efforts, should be properly monitored, tracked, and analyzed – and the results should be combined with other channels to fully comprehend your omnichannel users in the digital world.

Another strategy to consider is to market your mobile site to a general audience. Once they visit your site, you can then market your app to them. The thinking behind this strategy is that you will offer an “easier” alternative to the masses, but those who truly want more engagement can find it using the app.

The definitive answer: Where should you invest your effort?

To find your definitive answer, you need to start by answering some questions.

  1. What is your growth strategy?
  2. Who is your target audience, what is their journey, have you identified their ZMOT?
  3. Does your business need to focus on retention or acquisition?
  4. Can your app honestly make it into the top 50 apps people use daily?
  5. Does your product even need an app?
  6. What can you present in an app that you cannot present on a mobile site?

By answering these six questions, you can start build a strategy that will reveal your answer. Maybe you will find that now, marketing your mobile site is more important than your app, but 6 months down the line, this could change. Only armed with your own business strategy can you decide which is right for you: mobile app or mobile site marketing.