July 7, 2021

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile-friendly Websites for eCommerce: What's the difference?

Explore the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website and see which shoppers prefer. Take a look at why mobile apps should be a no-brainer addition to your store’s omnichannel eCommerce marketing mix and how they significantly outperform mobile-friendly websites of brands, especially those on Shopify.

Gabby Wooden

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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Regardless of whether a shopper has an iOS or Android mobile device, offering a mobile app is a critical component of your mobile strategy. There’s no better way to increase conversions, improve customer loyalty, and turn your target audience's casual shopping habits into habitual high-spending.

The fact is that mobile-friendly websites no longer cut it. In today's highly competitive eCommerce world, owning your own marketing channel is crucial for getting your customer's direct attention in a landscape undetermined by algorithms.

With a mobile app, you no longer have to worry about paying third-party platforms for your customers’ attention. Instead, your eCommerce app is both a marketing and end-to-end sales channel in itself, driving high intent, lucrative traffic, and converting mobile users 2.3x higher than your responsive website.

Mobile apps can be a seriously powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. They have the ability to bring people closer to the products and content that they want and make it easier for customers to interact with them. Easy-to-use mobile apps offer a uniquely immersive experience, providing a personalized shopping experience at the touch of an icon and allowing brands to better reach, engage, convert, and retain high value customers. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the key statistics in the battle of mobile apps vs. mobile websites and dig deep into the pros and cons of each.

How Mobile Apps Compare to Mobile-Friendly Websites [Comparison Breakdown]

Speed: Which is faster?

infographic shows mobile apps are six times faster than mobile web

Pre-downloaded mobile apps are faster:

The good news? When comparing native apps vs responsive websites, an app’s offline functionality and responsive design ensures that every single page is pre-downloaded and requires zero wait time to navigate. The great news? This is especially important in an increasingly impatient user base, where every second your Shopify web page spends loading on your mobile device can result in a 7% loss in your conversions.

Loading time on mobile view reduces page views:

Here's the skinny: loading time is a major player in page abandonment, and just a one-second delay will reduce page views by 11%. Point blank, the faster and more fluid your mobile experience, the longer and higher your customers will shop and convert.

Conversion: Which leads to higher sales?

infographic shows data of how apps have a higher conversion rate than mobile websites

Mobile app conversions bring richer user experience:

Instant page loading, load-free content, app-exclusive products, push notifications, and streamlined checkout, all result in increased conversion opportunities unfound on a mobile site. Mobile app conversion rates are higher than the conversion rates for websites because they offer a better all-around user experience. 

Loyal customers are nurtured by the app and have higher conversion rates:

A decrease in conversion rates on website traffic not only has an impact on revenue but also impacts your repeat customer rate. A first-time shopper is 27% more likely to shop a second time and a second-time shopper is 54% more likely to shop after that. That’s a mighty leap, especially when an average of 41% of eCommerce revenue is driven by repeat customers.

Retention: Which attracts more recurring customers?

infographic shows apps have 190 percent retention rate compared to mobile web at 40 percent

Customer retention is increased through push notifications on the mobile app:

Push notifications are a key player in retaining shoppers and they are a seamless end-to-end sales channel. By keeping your store top of mind, and directing them through a fluid browse-to-checkout experience, repeat visitations on a user's device are markedly increased. They’re also incredibly cost effective. Unlike email and SMS text marketing (which get more expensive the more you scale), the cost of push notifications stays the same. No matter how many messages you send. Hellooo revenue.

Building customer relationships on mobile websites get cut off as soon as the customer navigates to a different page:

How you build relationships and maximize revenue for each customer is paramount when it comes to creating a scalable business, especially when improving retention by just 1% can lead to a 7% improvement in bottom-line revenue. Mobile applications use streamlined shopping, customized experiences, strategic messaging flows, loyalty programs, app exclusives, and more to improve retention. All of these are things you either can’t get with a mobile website or need an integration for, which can slow down your load times. Lose-lose.

Traffic: Which drives more visitors to your Shopify store?

infographic shows app push notifications increase sales revenue and is an addition to web sales

Mobile app traffic drives repeat business:

Mobile apps push your top traffic into a sales channel where shoppers are not only more likely to convert but are likely to purchase more products more frequently. Push notifications help organically drive top shoppers into your app on a repeat basis, spiking conversions and traffic, and making a major impact on your revenue.

Mobile websites are more general and not as immersive to the top shoppers:

Mobile websites are just one of many avenues shoppers can purchase your products, and data shows that brands should have multiple omnichannel sales funnels. Mobile apps are an additional high-performing revenue stream catering specifically to top shoppers that should not be left out of your omnichannel mix. In essence, everyone should be invited to the party.

Understanding the advantages of mobile apps over a responsive websites

If you plan on running a successful ecommerce website – or any website for that matter – you absolutely must cater to mobile users. since 81% of Shopify traffic comes from mobile. Not even Black Friday was immune to the mobile revolution, as nearly 40% of sales on the traditional brick and mortar shopping day came via mobile devices. That’s up almost 10% from the previous year! (source).

Statistics show that 40% of users will go to the competitor after a bad mobile experience, yet an alarming 84% have experienced difficulty completing a mobile transaction(source). That is an extremely high number, and it shows just how great the opportunity is for businesses to capitalize on conversions just by creating mobile responsive and user-friendly websites.

A lot of eCommerce businesses rely on having a responsive website at the core of their mobile strategy. After all, as long as mobile users can get to their site, see product details, and check out, that’s all there is, right?

Not exactly. There’s a much better way that is cost and time-effective. For a number of reasons, a mobile app is a far better alternative than only focusing on making your website mobile-responsive (although you should do that, as well).

Now that we’ve seen a big picture comparison between native eCommerce apps and mobile websites, let’s dive deeper into the benefits that mobile apps have over websites for your eCommerce store:.

Mobile Apps Make Payments Easier, Faster and More Secure

When you turn your Shopify store into a mobile app, you can include secure payment options and program the app to remember these options for later shopping experiences. This streamlines the buying process for both the consumer and the merchant while also improving mobile conversion rate.

A big factor in Amazon's success has been the ease of their One-Click Checkout for Amazon Prime members. By adding payment options like Apple Pay, you can recreate this seamless checkout experience and have your customers complete their transactions in seconds. Apple Pay loads your Apple account information, including your credit card and shipping/billing addresses, so consumers can purchase with just a fingerprint or face ID.

Mobile Apps Allow Push Notifications

Imagine delivering a streamlined, personal experience designed for a mobile device directly into your customer’s hands. Push notifications do just that and are the perfect way to engage with your repeat customers who have downloaded your app. Email marketing is cluttered and open rates are far too low. Not only do pushes get 5x better open rates over email campaigns, but they are generally opened in real-time instead of hours, or even days, later.

Additionally, push notifications can be location-based so that you can present customers with special offers when they get near one of your brick and mortar stores. Notifications can also be issued when you need to unload some merchandise and run a special sale or offer a promotion to get the word out about a new item.

You can’t employ push notifications to boost sales if you don’t have an app. Just sayin’.

Mobile Apps Encourage Social Sharing

Want customers to do your advertising for you by sharing your merchandise on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites? Social sharing can be integrated right into your custom mobile app so all of your customers can hype your new product or awesome sale to all of their friends and followers.

Users Prefer Apps to Shopping via Mobile Browsers

When polled, 78% of users said they would rather access their favorite shopping sites via a mobile app than through their mobile browsers. The advantages of mobile apps are that apps make the shopping experience faster and more secure, and users never have to worry about remembering to log in each time they want to see what’s new or place their usual order.

Apps Give Developers More Control Over the User Experience

Mobile apps allow your developers to design a unique and powerful user experience according to the device the user has. You can control the interface and present a faster service. Apps also allow developers to tailor the experience for the device, which lets you go beyond the limitations of responsive web design and work perfectly with the user’s phone operating system.

Creating a personalized experience that’s unique, but familiar, across devices builds trust in your brand and keeps customers coming back for more.

Mobile Apps Help Build Brand Loyalty

Nothing puts your brand and products front and center like a mobile app that the customer can easily access anytime they use their phone. Apps become like the virtual eyes, ears, and arms of the shopper — these tools are with them everywhere, always. That makes mobile apps a powerful tool for building and nurturing loyal customers.

By offering discounts, early access, or fresh content only available to app users, you can create a sense of exclusivity and give users a reason to keep coming back. Plus, you can use your app as a hub for your community of loyal customers who love your brand enough to give it valuable real estate on their home screen. Take advantage of that by making the experience feel seamless, special, and exclusive. 

8 Mobile App vs Website statistics you need to know

If you’re still not convinced that consumers prefer a mobile app platform, let these statistics on mobile apps vs website do the talking:

  1. Mobile commerce now accounts for over 50% of all eCommerce transactions (source).
  2. 57% of mobile customers will abandon a website if they have to wait 3 seconds for a page to load (source).
  3. 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months (source).
  4. Almost 40% of all ecommerce purchases during the 2019 holiday season were made on a smartphone (source).
  5. 80% of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices or find alternative store locations (source).
  6. Apps remain the most efficient channel for retailers, driving a larger percentage of shoppers down the purchase funnel and converting at 3x the rate of mobile web (source).
infographic of mobile apps conversion rate is 3.7 times higher than mobile web


It goes without saying, the first step in optimizing your sales for customers on mobile is to have a mobile responsive website. You can’t skip it. In order to rank your site in search, run successful ad campaigns, and convert customers who land on your site, your Shopify store must be optimized for mobile users.

However, if you don’t have a native mobile app, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table due to increased abandoned checkouts and the inability to drive traffic on demand through push notifications.

By adding a no-code mobile app to your mobile marketing and sales strategy, you are able to give your top shoppers a premium experience that translates into greater brand loyalty and recurring revenue, while lowering ad spending and third-party reliance.

If you need a mobile app and are looking for a cost-effective way to turn your Shopify store into an app, Tapcart is here to help!

To learn more about the benefits of a mobile app and what Tapcart can do for your brand, get in touch with us to speak with a mobile expert.

Your brand’s mobile growth starts today.