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Survey Results: Websites Yes, Apps No

With all the recent emphasis on going mobile friendly, more businesses are wondering if they should have their own custom app—after all, that’s what the kids want these days, right? But actually, as it turns out, no they don’t.

That’s according to a recent survey of consumers’ mobile website preferences. It turns out the most popular way to find information online is on a regular old mobile browser, using plain vanilla mobile websites. Only a tiny fraction of people prefer to use an app.

A Startling Change

These results are fascinating, because the main point of the survey was actually to find out what consumers want in a mobile website; asking whether they preferred it to apps is almost a footnote. But the results are staggered: 50 percent of users prefer looking at a local business in their mobile browser, and most of the rest prefer to get info on the business from a mobile map like Apple Maps. Only a paltry 1 in 10 would prefer if the business had an app of their own.

Even more stunning, the percentage of people who prefer browsers to apps has increased since 2013. That’s right: two years farther into the digital era, with more people than ever fluent in handheld devices, people are turning away from apps and asking for regular old mobile websites.

One possible reason for this is that mobile websites are better now than they ever have before, and—as we’ll see below—users have high expectations for those sites. A separate app is generally superfluous.

But just as important, in my opinion, is the inherent inconvenience of using a business’s app. When customers go to your mobile website they’re already using an app (their browser). Telling them to download some other app to access stuff is like kicking customers out of your store’s front door and telling them to go around to the back.

Clear Preferences

The survey also tells us that consumers know what they want when they come to a mobile website, and they’re often not getting it. The most important information consumers say they want to find is address, driving directions, hours, phone number and price list. Shockingly, this is information that’s still missing (or just hard to find) on many mobile websites. If you’re a business owner, go check your mobile site right now and see how easily you can find this.

Price list is a particularly sticky issue. When an address or phone number is left off it’s often just by accident, but many business owners think they’re improving their marketing by keeping prices hidden. Customers disagree. More than 1 in 4 said they would simply not use a business if the prices weren’t clear on their mobile site.

No one who understands mobile technology should be surprised by these figures. After all, apps are just plain inconvenient and people today expect to get information quickly and easily. But now we have cold hard numbers to back up that hunch, and acting on them could put you ahead of your competitors.