Welcome to the second half of our mobile advertising blog series! In part 1, we discussed how in-app ads are the future of mobile advertising and now, we’re shifting our focus to mobile sites and the important role they can play in advertising strategies. Currently, there are more than 72 million mobile web users and 69 million mobile app users, and both numbers are estimated to reach over 100 million by 2013. We’ve heard the debates regarding which is better (we’ve even had the debate a few times ourselves) and have concluded that both mobile app advertising and mobile web advertising are significant in today’s advertising efforts.

Apps (good ones) generally have easier navigation and interaction, use rich-media and phone functions (i.e. camera and GPS), and don’t necessarily need an internet connection. The rise of “bigger screen” tablets not only call for better apps, but also more mobile web browsing. An Adobe survey stated that 66% of mobile users prefer to retrieve information through mobile browsing instead of mobile apps. Even though apps can serve many purposes and have the advantage of being downloaded onto the desktop to develop long-term relationships, it can be tedious and overcrowding to download and install an app for every little thing you want to do – sometimes a simple mobile search will suffice. Furthermore, multiple versions of apps need to be developed for each smartphone platform and only 38% of the US own an app-compatible smartphone, as opposed to the universal mobile site. On top of that, app developers need to share revenue and get approval from the app store in order to be published or make any changes.

There is valid support for each side, but we say, why not use apps and sites simultaneously? Consider the option of building a mobile site first to establish consumer experience and trust. Then drive users to a more “hands-on” app that you’ve developed based on what you’ve learned from users of your mobile site. Another option is “appsites” which can be sites just for promoting your app, or a site linked within an app. For instance, NikeID’s mobile site features studio locations where you can receive personal one-on-one sessions, a video showcasing their immersive app and a link to download it. Likewise, Google offers specific apps that allow you to search via keyboard, voice or camera, but all drive you to their mobile site to find more information.

So, if you’re thinking about ramping up your mobile strategy, here are a few key things to include:

  • Make your mobile site a mini-version of your website with touch-friendly features. Include larger and simpler graphics, easier navigation and plug-ins for faster loading and better user experience.
  • Make your app have a frequent use to avoid sitting on the desktop. Offer more tailored features than your site and aim to be listed on top download listings which can be done through ratings.
  • Use social media to promote and compliment the user experience. Brand all elements (social channels, app and/or mobile site) the same throughout with a simple logo/image, name, and/or tagline.
  • Always upgrade based on trends, advances and consumer needs.

In the end, your mobile strategy ultimately depends on your business and consumer needs. Consider the context of your industry (ex. travel is location-based) and the strengths of each medium. Mobile sites tend to be better for commerce, while apps are better for games and entertainment. Nonetheless, both will evolve even more as mobile devices continue to advance. With the growing use of HTML5 and open standard APIs that enable developers to access phone functions, mobile sites are becoming very similar to in-app ads. Perhaps there will be a fine line between the two in the near future. But until that happens, including both mobile app and mobile web advertising can give you invaluable results for your mobile strategy.