We're often told that in an era where everyone uses a smartphone, having an app experience is essential to drive consumer engagement. Yet even the statistics used to support that argument often tell a more complex story.
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I was sent a press release by measurement company Nielsen discussing the importance of mobile apps. Using data from Carsales.com.au for March 2014, it showed the proportion of total user sessions from mobile app, tablets (using the mobile site), phones (using the mobile site) and desktop PCs:
Nielsen's release notes that "only 43 per cent of content was accessed via a computer". That's true, but it could also be phrased as "almost half of our users still prefer a computer". Similarly, on these numbers, only one-quarter of customers actively use an app — and we don't know how many of those would have been happy to use a mobile site if an app wasn't available.
That figure would obviously depend on how good the mobile site is — an adaptive design that easily fits your screen will work better than a desktop site where everything is too small to read. Ultimately, there's no single answer to the "do I need an app?" question. But it seems clear that you definitely still need a site more.