Entrepreneur

HTML5 and native apps: A winning mobile strategy

(Editor’s note: Jason Taylor is VP of Platform Strategy at Usablenet. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

As smartphones continue their exponential growth and consumers get increasingly comfortable with using them to book travel, conduct research and make purchases, it’s essential for organizations to leverage next-generation mobile technologies into their overall marketing efforts.

A comprehensive mobile strategy that incorporates advanced HTML5 mobile Web capabilities, while simultaneously maximizing their reach with a native application strategy is essential for companies hoping to secure brand loyalty.

That’s a tall order, but it’s one that will help you win in the mobile field, which is increasingly becoming crucial to businesses.

Up first: Leveraging HTML5 to reach users. The advancements of HTML5 mobile development provides businesses with a reliable mobile Web platform that delivers faster speeds and more flexibility on next-generation broadband networks. By leveraging advanced features supported by HTML5, you can deliver an app-like experience without forcing people to hunt through an app store, then download the software. Further, HTML5 sites are search engine friendly, potentially increasing your exposure.

There are a few key HTML5-enabled features you’ll need to leverage to enhance the consumer browsing experience:

  • Dynamic scrolling banners provide brands with the ability to further target mobile users with the latest products, special offers and relevant promotions on the mobile homepage
  • Expanding navigation, collapsible menus and pop-up windows can improve site navigation and allow more content to be incorporated – maximizing the smartphone’s small screen design without sacrificing crucial page download time
  • High-resolution image galleries display multiple, high quality product images in a gallery format; and allows users to scroll, swipe and zoom in on a selected image
  • Advanced GPS functionality can customize the mobile site experience to where the user is located. A great example is Expedia, a company that delivers mobile search results and hotel room availability based on the user’s location
  • Predictive Search can cut down the time it takes for users to access search results on a branded mobile page – similar to the way Google delivers its search results
  • Mini-Carts on transactional mobile sites allows users to easily call up their shopping cart at any time to see what’s in their basket, without having to navigate away from the page that they’re on

Using HTML5 doesn’t mean you should ignore traditional apps, though. These can offer consumers a more personalized mobile experience. Because there is a customer discovery element, though, it’s best to view them as a tool to more deeply engage your most faithful customers.

By complementing your mobile Web strategy with native apps, you can encourage customers to become evangelists for your brand. Since mobile apps provide the ability to leverage smartphones’ unique capabilities, they are able to deliver unique interactive features. Examples include:

  • Leveraging the smartphone’s camera: The smartphone’s camera can be used in-app to deliver experiences not available in the mobile browser, like providing the ability to read QR and other bar codes. Integrating QR Codes into a mobile app strategy allows brands to implement innovative new marketing and advertising options and deliver unique, exclusive content to consumers.
  • Push notifications: This ensures you remain in direct contact with your most loyal customers through an open line of communication. In addition, push notifications provide another unique broadcast platform to disseminate targeted promotions and other branded news.
  • Deliver unique, brand-appropriate experiences: The mobile application format presents brands with the opportunity to deliver unique, engaging features to their most loyal customers that are not available in the mobile Web experience. For example, Pacific Sunwear’s iPhone app features an ‘Outfit Builder’ that allows users to piece together a complete outfit from apparel available in PacSun’s inventory.  

As mobile and marketing experts continue to debate the advantages of HTML5 mobile web versus the mobile app, it is time for brands to view these mobile tools not as competing entities, but rather as complimentary pieces to develop the most comprehensive and effective mobile strategy possible. By leveraging both, you’ll more effectively engage with your consumers.

About the author: Jason Taylor is the vice president of Platform Strategy atUsablenet, a global technology leader in multichannel customer engagement. The company works with 20% of Fortune 1000 clients including FedEx, Macy’s, JCPenney, Estée Lauder, Hilton, Delta, Victoria’s Secret and others. Follow@Usablenet on Twitter.


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