My morning routine typically involves browsing the front page of Reddit while I make breakfast. The other day instead of just dismissing the little popup at the bottom of the screen that always seems to get in the way, I actually read what it said. It read, “Open Reddit App.” Now, I’m not really a Reddit power user or anything. I’m really more of a lurker who likes to get news and info, so I didn’t feel I had any use for the app.
A few moments later I see a post about the new Marvel movie, Captain Marvel. Intrigued to know more, I went to IMDb and was promptly met with a banner at the top of my screen, prompting me to open this page in the IMDb app. Of course, I didn’t download the app. I had gotten the two pieces of information I wanted, and IMDb is not a site I go to often. But, it did make me think about why nearly every site we navigate to pushes us towards their app.
Mobile apps allow for capturing more data than websites. I’m not talking about usage data within the application, but rather the extra data apps can be granted access to that websites cannot. Mobile apps have the ability to ask for, and be granted access to pretty much everything on your device.
For example, does Pandora really need the ability to access and modify my calendar events? Definitely not for my use. But I like to listen to Pandora, so I guess it’s a trade-off. Companies want the most data about you that they can get. This allows them to tailor the experience they provide you so you spend more time with the app and are more likely to use some of the more obscure features.
The goal here is to be noticed and easy to reach. Getting you to install something on your device places the app logo front and center in your daily life. At that point the app is just one click away, making it more likely you will use the service than if you had to navigate to a website in a browser. After all: out of sight, out of mind.
Companies want you to use their applications as often as possible. Websites really only allow for engagement to be initiated by the app user. After you are done using the site, nothing happens until you decide to engage with the website again.
Mobile apps, however, have the power of push notifications. A friend sent you a chat message? Push notification. You haven’t used the app in 24 hours? Push Notification. A gif of someone tickling a kitten was just posted? Push Notification.
Apps allow for engagement to be initiated both ways. This draws users back in, driving up usage.
A lot of content providers – blogs, forums, recipe sites – make money from serving ads through advertising tools such as Google AdSense (web) and Google AdMob (app). It has become increasingly easier to block ads in websites with plugins such as AdBlock - this even applies to websites on mobile devices. AdBlock plugins are available for the Firefox and Samsung browsers, and there are even a couple browsers with ad blocking built in (Opera, Adblock Browser).
Mobile apps, however, are a bit more difficult to block ads on. Common routes for blocking ads in apps include creating a DNS blackhole for ads, or rooting your device and downloading a device-wide ad blocker. These methods are tedious and not for novice users, thus ad campaigns have a much higher likelihood of reaching the user if they are using a mobile app instead of a mobile website.
To sum it up, there are plenty of advantages for websites to herd users to their mobile app. Some web users may be annoyed with the constant requests to migrate to the mobile app, but rarely will they quit using a service because of the prompts. This practically makes it a no-lose situation for companies, as they won’t lose users but may gain more information and increase usage from their existing userbase.