In today’s mobile-first world, we’re all aware of the need to shift our focus away from traditional advertising and desktop banner ads, and onto mobile marketing. Digital advertising is on course to surpass television advertising this year and will account for almost 40% of global ad spend in 2018. And mobile is taking a growing percentage of that: it’s already overtaken desktop ad spending, and it’s growing fast. In India, mobile advertising is growing at 17% per annum. In Australia, it’s up over 30% so far this year.

For some brands, according to Randall Rotherburg, CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, it’s gone beyond a mobile-first attitude. “Mobile fueled the internet economy in 2016… This increasing commitment is a reflection of brands’ ongoing marketing shift from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘mobile-only’ in order to keep pace with today’s on-the-go consumers.”

The unstoppable rise of mobile isn’t even open to debate anymore. Over 60% of all searches now come from mobile devices. Two-thirds of Americans research purchases on mobile devices even if they subsequently buy online or in a retail store. Worldwide, mobile purchases are set to overtake desktop purchases within the year: on Black Friday last year, 40% of all purchases were made from a mobile device. In some sectors, mobile is even more important. For brands operating in Asia or Africa, mobile usage is even more prevalent than in Europe or the USA. And for consumers under the age of 30, their mobile device is often their exclusive way of accessing the internet.

To keep up with what customers demand, there are three things brands need to invest in. Mobile web, mobile advertising, and mobile apps - usually in that order.

Most web teams are now aware of the necessity of creating mobile-friendly sites. Creating a mobile-specific or responsive site should now be standard practice. Designing for laptops and desktops with large monitors simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Instead, you should assume that most of your customers will be using a phone or tablet, and design primarily for that use case. But mobile web alone isn’t enough. The UX is often unsatisfactory, and fails to take advantage of the features that mobile devices offer. Users’ frustration with poorly designed mobile websites shows in the comparative cart abandonment rates - double the rates for desktop. Research by Mobify shows that only 1.5% of mobile web users complete a transaction, compared to 3% on desktop. For the ideal mobile UX, you need an app.

However, brands are often understandably reluctant to spend the money on developing a mobile app. They’re already diverting marketing budgets into increasingly costly mobile advertising and mobile web, so there isn’t always money available for app development. And given that apps don’t have the same discovery capability as mobile web and only appeal to a small percentage of your potential customers, creating a native app can feel like an unnecessary expense.

It’s true that app development can be extremely expensive. According to CodeMentor, if you use an external development company the median cost to develop a high-profile iOS app in the USA is $150,000. It’s only about half that in the UK, and you can reduce your costs even further if you outsource the work to Eastern Europe, India, or Indonesia, but even so, this is a major expense. Developing for Android, because of the wide range of devices you need to support, can cost two to three times as much. In other words, you need to be prepared to spend between $50,000 and $500,000 for a mobile app. It’s tough to justify that when you could be spending that same budget on advertising instead.

However, you can offset the costs of creating your mobile app. As I discovered recently, simply having an app can reduce the price you pay for mobile ads. The money you’re saving on ad spending can be put towards the cost of app development. Because buying ads online is mostly based on an auction system, having less competition means that you will get lower prices for your ads and guess what, there are a lot fewer apps than websites competing for ad space.

But it gets better. Having an app will also improve your SEO, so now your marketing budget is becoming more effective. That’s more money freed up for your app.

And you really don’t need to spend that much on mobile app development anyway. Most apps are hand-coded, which is heavily labor-intensive. But with modern tools such as React Native you can build fully-featured apps much, much faster and cheaper.

In fact, you don’t need to spend anything at all on a mobile app. Ombori Grid allows you to quickly convert your mobile website into a native app with no upfront cost for either development or maintenance: you only pay a percentage of your mobile sales.

You now have a win/win situation: you’ve got a mobile app which generates sales, supports your other digital marketing efforts, boosts your engagement with your most valuable customers and enables you to reduce your mobile ad costs.


By Andreas Hassellöf, founder and CEO of Ombori Group

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