Why you need a Mobile App?
Ecommerce businesses are dependent on the same businesses that they are competing against.
Back during the early days of smartphones, everyone wanted app. The prevalent thought was that you need to get your logo on people's homescreens was considered a marketing coup. Regardless of whether the App provided any utility or not. Having app installed also gave you access to data which you can monetize.
Except most apps were awful, either due to hardware limitations or just a lack of policy on the development end. And people started deleting apps, also due to hardware limitations, namely storage space. Apps also went out of favor because discoverability and user retention became an issue. Publishers also did not have any tools segment the audience directly. At least not any easily applied tools.
So mobile apps went out of favor. Web technologies matured far enough and were easy enough to iterate when compared to Mobile Apps. If you were to map business' sentiments, you will find that the popularity of technologies such as React, Angular and Vue, coincides with decline of Mobile Apps. This has been a double edged sword.
I have had many ecommerce clients ask me why do they have to pay Google and Facebook for ads. I point out that these are not ads. This is rent. Google and Facebook own the internet and we have to pay them rent to do business. This is the cold hard truth of doing business online, the internet is trending towards oligopolies.
Four companies alone control 70% of digital ads market. Three companies control 50% of the global ecommerce trade. You have to use to them to have any competitive advantage. It is ironic, then that they chip away your competitive advantage. Any data you collect, any techniques you apply for digital ads are going to be passed on to your competitors, in the form of automated campaigns, and other services. Amazon and Alibaba are even worse; not only do you have to pay for the privilege of selling product on their platforms, you have to pay for ads by the impression, further eating into your margins. And if you managed to make money despite all that, they will copy your product as a private label and undercut you on price.
These are oligopolies; these few companies control the market in such a thorough manner that they stifle all growth for smaller players.
Rise and Fall of Email
If you work in digital marketing or commerce, you already know that. Which is why for the past decade you have spent most of your time trying to build mailing lists and incentivizing your prospective customers and clients to hand over that address. Chances are you are reading this in your inbox. It is the only marketing medium you can control thoroughly. But there are already problems.
It would take just a few disgruntled subscribers for your email address to be blacklisted. There are email services that allow you to counter that, but even they are mildly effective. Whatever you may do, everyone is going to like you appearing in their email inbox. The controls are already slipping.
The Next Billion Users.
The majority of the world's population lives in China, South Asia and South-East Asia. The majority of these users are mobile-only. They have leapfrogged email. What if your business is mainly located in US and Europe? Well younger users are also Mobile First. They are more comfortable with texting than email. It is some thing us olds use.
You can already see this in China; their oligopolies emerged not as a group disparate services running in your browser like Google, Amazon and Facebook. China is the land of Super Apps. WeChat and AliPay are their Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Doordash and their Bank. They have consolidated all User needs in one app.
Your own Platform
So how do you grow your platform beyond a website and an email list? Simple, create a Mobile App. The simplest solution is to turn it into a Progressive Web App(PWA). Except PWA's are...
You can't have Notifications on iOS. And there is no sign of Apple allowing them.
Most of the issues with developing native mobile apps have been resolved.
Mobile hardware is on par or surpasses desktop hardware in performance, on an average basis.
Both Android and iOS have switched more iterable languages(Kotilin and Swift, respectively).
Storage space is also growing steadily for phones.
There are still issues of cost. But with frameworks like React Native, Ionic and, Flutter are slowly closing the gap.
But why would users install my app?
The same reason they hand you their email; you incentivize them. Either by sales, or exclusives. Once you are in their App drawers, you get access to the most important digital real estate in the world; Notifications. Notifications have twice the open rate of email. Same for the conversion rate. Mobile Apps are the perfect next step in expanding your own platform. Free from BigTech oligopolies.
Mobile apps started out as frivolous branding exercises that lost importance due to superior web technologies overtaking them in ease of use and deployment. But the web is controlled by a bunch of oligopolies, while native app development tools have matured far enough to create a superior product. You can now expand your platform with a channel that you control yourself alone.