Responsive web design or native app? With limited development budgets, the vagaries and proclivities and peculiarities of iOS and Android development platforms, it’s a valid question. I believe you need both.
Responsive web is your catch-all, your mobile safety net. You can absolutely create a responsive web mobile experience that’s elegant and delivers a great user experience that helps drive consumer engagement. But if you’re concerned about developing loyalty with your customers, you need to consider developing a native mobile app that works synchronously with your responsive web mobile platform.
If a consumer takes the time to download and install a brand’s app, when they can otherwise get a similar experience via that brand’s responsive web environment, that behavior is an early indication that they’re inclined to be a more loyal customer over time. The key in this scenario is to reward these types of customers with a better experience than they would otherwise get via your responsive web platform.
For example, I recently received this GoPro message inviting me to download an app that allows me to wirelessly control my GoPro HD HERO2 (something I cannot do via GoPro.com):
This app gives me a better experience with my HERO2, but also gives GoPro potential opportunities to interact with me at higher levels such as messaging me directly (if I accept to interact in this manner), sending me more targeted offers, inviting me to special events, etc; essentially incenting me to engage with them as a brand. It also gives GoPro a base of loyal consumers that GoPro can leverage to form strategic alliances. For example, GoPro could form an alliance with EpicMix so when I ski at Vail Resorts I receive special co-branded offers from both brands, GoPro sponsored VIP parties at Vail Resorts, etc, thereby increasing my trust and love of both brands. Finally, the GoPro app could keep track of my usage history and send a record of such to GoPro.com so when I login there I feel I am further tied to and invested in the overall GoPro experience.
Photo credit: Howard Dickins