Let’s be clear here, it’s not a question of whether you should have an app or a website — a proper digital strategy needs both. But at the same time, over half of shoppers in the UK alone say they prefer to use apps over websites. So while building a website might be cheaper at the start, there are plenty of reasons why investing in a dedicated app will pay you back more in the long run.

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They’re a direct buying journey

The biggest advantage apps have is that they’re downloaded straight to a user’s phone, meaning they’re already one tap closer to customers than a website. All users have to do to start shopping is hit your icon and they’re away. No need to fire up a browser and pick you out of a Google search first.

Why does that matter? Because it’s a simpler user journey. And the less time it takes a user to find your products, the less chance they’ll be distracted and pulled away by something else before they’ve completed the purchase.

When a customer opens their browser, you’re fighting through a whole bunch of noise just to get their attention. The Google shopping tab is about one thing and one thing only, and that’s price comparison. So unless you can keep up with aggressively low-price players like Amazon and eBay, they’re always going to be picking off your potential repeat customers.

But when your app’s on a customer’s home screen, you’re already a preferred supplier. Customers know they can get what they want from you, and they’re more likely to go straight to your app rather than shop around online.

Push notifications are a marketing dream

But being on a home screen is just the start. You also need to encourage your customers to keep opening and using your app, even when they’re not planning on buying something.

That’s another area where apps have the edge, and all because of the power of push notifications. This is where promotion gets very direct. When “2 for 1 on selected products” pops up on someone’s phone, it’s like they’re getting a shop window display delivered right to the palm of their hand.

But that’s not all. Push notifications can also drive interaction with community or peer connections. Take apps like Depop or Vinted, for example, which let you know when someone you follow adds a new item so you can swoop in and buy it before it’s too late. It doesn’t have to be directly related to selling either, it just has to nudge you onto the platform to take a look.

Sure, websites can try to do the same thing with emails and newsletters. But emails don’t have the same immediacy — you need to log into your inbox to see it, but a push notification appears instantly on your phone screen.

And even then, just think how many marketing emails you send straight to the trash without reading the subject line. But when a notification pings on your phone, it gets your attention even if you don’t choose to swipe it open.

a screenshot of Vinted app notifications
Vinted notifications

The more fun the experience, the more they’ll buy

Great user experience is another key part of keeping customers coming back to your brand. That can mean helpful features like augmented reality (AR) functionality for “trying on” glasses or seeing how furniture fits in your living room. Or maybe it’s building a sense of community through users uploading images of the items they’ve bought.

These features aren’t exclusive to apps — there’s obviously nothing stopping you from adding image upload functionality to a website. But it’s easier for a mobile app to integrate these features because they’ve got direct access to operating system functions like the camera or accelerometer. Not only that, but Native development opens the door to a far more engaging user experience.

With a permanent presence on your phone, it’s easier for apps to be engaging and be user-friendly. And the more fun the shopping process becomes, the more likely your users are to come back and buy from you again and again.

To see how Morrow can build and support your e-commerce platform, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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