In the past week, two separate reports from Compuware and Siteworx highlighted consumer preference and behavior.  Both studies demonstrate how important user experience is to customer engagement and mobile adoption.  However, when it came to the all-important question of whether customers preferred mobile websites or apps, the studies showed conflicting results.   Compuware reported that 85% of those questioned preferred apps, while Siteworx reports that 65.7% preferred using a web site to an app.  What to make of this discrepancy?  Is one study right while the other is wrong?

Rather, I think this difference reflects the gap between the capabilities of a well-designed mobile web site and today’s consumer reality, as they navigate between non-mobile optimized sites, mobile friendly sites which may render properly, but don’t have an optimized mobile experience and end up being cluttered and difficult to navigate, and well-designed mobile sites.  What the Compuware survey reflects is that consumer perception has been polluted by these sub-par experiences to the point that they don’t feel as though they can rely on the mobile web to meet their needs.   The primary reason we hear for why end users prefer apps is that they are ensured a consistent and efficient process for doing that one focused activity they want to accomplish, which is consistent with Compuware’s findings that “Apps are perceived as more convenient (55 percent), faster (48 percent) and easier to browse (40 percent)”.

The good news however lies in the Siteworx survey, which suggests that consumers recognize the potential of mobile web to meet their needs, and given a well-designed mobile experience, they may likely prefer it.   If companies invest in the mobile web as a channel, which tends to be cheaper to both build and maintain for them, customers are happy to reward that investment with adoption of that mobile web channel.

As companies rush to meet the growing customer demand for mobile, it is often tempting to focus resources on a single channel or worse, device type, at the expense of the other experiences.  While allowing for greater product enhancement along that single channel, it may fail to align with customers’ preference and expectations for how they want to interact.  As both points highlight, that can be a fatal mistake that results in customer loss.