The Right Answer in the Native vs. Hybrid vs. Web App Debate

Mobile shopping apps are the future of e-commerce.

That’s a big statement to make, but check out the statistics. Mobile sales are currently driving 52% of the USA’s e-commerce sales. Other developed countries are keeping pace too, with 55% of Japan’s online commerce and 51% of the UK’s driven by mobile.

Shopping apps take up to 53% of total revenue for leading brands that invest time and money in their app. 85% of consumers prefer shopping apps over mobile websites, due to convenience, user experience and speed, which means that having one is critical to surviving and thriving as a retailer and being able to beat competitors.

(For more information, read our article on 5 no BS Reasons why every store needs a shopping app).

And this is where things get confusing. Retailers need apps – but if you look up “build a m-commerce app”, you’ll see there are app types: hybrid, web-based and native.

In this article you will find out why native apps are the only way to go in this competitive commerce market, with it’s demanding mobile users.

What are Native Apps

When we talk about apps, we’re really talking about native apps. Your Facebook app, your Twitter app, your Spotify app: all these apps are native. It means they are written using the native language of whatever operating system they’re made for. On iOS, this means Swift or Objective-C; on Android – Java; on Windows Phone – C#.

It also means you can download them in the app stores and the logo appears in the home screen of your mobile phone.

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The upside is that native apps (and the reason native apps are the only way to go) offer the best user experience. They’re made for a specific device, so the navigation is much more intuitive.

Native apps can make full use of the users device and thanks to that is has extra features, like push messages, gps, access to images etc. That’s why native apps are the best performing channel within m-commerce.

In the past, building native apps for iOS and Android would run you at least $50,000 (25.000 per operating system.

Nowadays you can use an easy and code-free App Building Platform like JMango360 to design and manage your native iOS & Android app for as little as a few hundred dollars. To find out how, check out our article on no-code app builders here.

What is a Web App?

A web app is the “next step up” from mobile web-sites and can be useful to even replace your mobile website in the future. It’s an app that can be accessed from mobile browsers, which gives it a unique advantage.

For starters, web apps can be accessed from any operating system. This means you only have to write code and publish the app once, which saves time and money.

Then there’s the fact that web apps don’t require users to download them. Anyone can open a web app – like this version of Facebook – and start using it instantly.

If you’re a stickler for detail, you might say that web apps are more websitethan app. From a user’s point of view, they’re accessed using the exact same software as a mobile website. Moreover, web apps lack all the features that truly define (native) apps – for example:

  • Push notifications
  • Working in offline mode
  • Limited advanced features (e.g. no haptic feedback on iOS devices)

There’s also a different kind of web app: the progressive app. These are web-based apps that have a lot more functionality. Specifically, progressive web apps (PWAs) can:

  • Send push messages
  • Use touch gestures and your phone’s accelerometer
  • Use your phone’s camera, microphone and haptic/vibration hardware

But, before you get excited…. there is a huge disadvantage using progressive apps: they can only be used for Chrome. This means only Android users are able to use progressive apps. And iOS users being the biggest buyers, it’s not the best option if you want all your users to get a good experience and improve your conversion rate and revenue at the same time.

What is a Hybrid App?

A hybrid app is a compromise between native and web apps. It consists of 2 parts:

  1. Back-end code built using web app-friendly languages like HTML, CSS and Javascript.
  2. A native, downloadable “shell” that loads the code up using Webview (a simple browser).

So essentially, a hybrid app is really a web app loaded inside of a native app. It can improve user experiences a little, and even create the illusion of a native app (in some cases).

In the end, though, hybrid apps are really web apps. The bulk of the code is the same for all devices; advanced functionality is still limited; the checkout is still complex and therefore the cart abandonment rate is high; you still need to be online to do anything.

The big difference is that hybrid apps are downloadable. This means they’re a fairly accurate facsimile of native apps, which makes them handy for pilot projects and minimum viable projects.

Outside of that, there’s no reason to get a hybrid app. If you’re going to shell out money anyway, you may as well pay a little extra and go native.

Now that you know about all 3 app types, let’s finish with an important question: when should you use each kind of app?

  • Well, native apps offer the best user experiences, simplified checkout, more features and the highest conversion and retention rates. They should always be your primary choice if you want improve your mobile experience and results.
  • Web apps are less than ideal – but they’re still better than mobile websites. Since some users will inevitably go to your URL from their mobile devices, a web app is a good auxiliary channel to have in addition to a native app. Progressive web apps can only be opened in Chrome, which means only Android users have access to these type of apps. Knowing that iOS users are the biggest spenders, it’s not an ideal solution if you want to improve your mobile commerce results.
  • Hybrid apps are useful when you need to test out a new idea, so it’s more suitable for other businesses (like Games) than eCommerce. Other than that, we advise against them.

How to build a Mobile App?

At this point, you may be thinking: this is great and all, but I don’t have the money to make a native app and a web app.

And that may be true. Most SMBs don’t have the money to make an excellent app of any kind from scratch. Even a simple web app can cost $10,000+ – and native apps regularly run for $40,000-$50,000.

Fortunately, there’s a better way to do things. With our Mobile App Builder you can turn your existing store into a native iOS & Android app in seconds and just pay a small monthly or yearly fee. It’s fully integrated with your online product catalog and payment gateways, so managing the app is painless.

You can checkout the platform for free by signing up and start building your app – or schedule a demo where we show you how fast and easy it is to build a native app.

Otherwise, thanks for reading and see you next time!

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