What do your customers want more, Mobile Apps Vs Mobile Websites?

Published: 24/09/2019
Author: Vidatec

If you are reviewing your mobile presence you’ll be asking yourself whether you need a mobile app or a mobile website.

Although time spent on mobile is a huge upwards trend within the travel sector in general, it is important to recognise that this time is split between mobile apps and mobile websites. Behaviour patterns are emerging with users preferring mobile websites over apps and vice versa for specific travel related activities. There is a place for both mobile apps and mobile websites within the travel industry, but what platform do you want to push your customers to and for what purpose? To make this call you need a mobile strategy.

Image of hands using map on mobile phones

Your mobile strategy should be driven by your customer’s online behaviour and where you see an opportunity to improve their experience with your brand within that behaviour trend.

Apps are enormously powerful assets when approached correctly – they can make or break customer loyalty in a marketplace that’s never been so competitive. Consider how adverse you can be to downloading a new app in exchange for one of your current go to apps! If it’s not easier, faster, more convenient, or likely to earn you a significant reward you won’t do it.

Customer experience is everything. Without a dreamlike experience for your users and a process that is next level intuitive, you may face an uphill battle to achieve adoption of the app across your audience.

We’ll take you through the fundamentals so you can decide what elements of your offering fall into the camp of mobile app and which best suit a mobile website.

1. What’s the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website?

Before deciding on the best use of a mobile website or a mobile app for your brand, you first need to be crystal clear on what exactly these platforms are and their key differences.

What is a mobile website?

A mobile website is a website that has been designed to be viewed on a mobile device.

Not so long ago the norm was to design and build websites for desktop computers and then adapt the design as a second, lesser consideration so that it would display well on mobiles too. That is referred to as ‘desktop first design’.

Mobile device usage has accelerated at such a rate that many industries now call for a ‘mobile first website’ – aka a mobile website – which is a website that has been designed first and foremost to be used on a mobile device.

Viewing news on tablet

What is a mobile app?

A mobile app (mobile application) is a specific piece of software that can be downloaded to a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet and enables the user to complete a certain task. Apps can often be used when offline, which gives the user more flexibility.

A great example of an industry that has championed mobile apps is banking. In 2017, 22 million people used their bank’s mobile app to manage their money from their smartphone. The app was a better, safer, and easier to use platform than their bank’s website and became the preferred method for online banking.

Paying with mobile phone

2. How to decide between a mobile app or a mobile website in the travel sector?

Many businesses have both a mobile website and a mobile app, but why, and is this the right approach for you?

The answer to whether your brand needs a mobile website, a mobile app or even both, lies in the intended activity you want your customers to undertake.

A mobile app typically has a smaller scope than a website, the app is more interactive and provides specific information in a mobile friendly format.

To look back at our mobile banking example, checking balances, moving money between accounts and making payments are typically very easy to do within a mobile app. But the website is a better platform to compare products, view statements and complete more involved tasks.

Mobile app vs mobile website for the travel industry

The travel sector is a mobile-first industry, people are turning to their phones constantly to help them make travel decisions. But the interactions that take place on a mobile website vs a mobile app need closer examination.

Below we have listed the general tasks that users prefer to conduct on a mobile website, and then the tasks that are typically taking place within apps. Consider where your product or service falls within these general groupings.

Person on phone travelling through airport

Travel related activities that people prefer to conduct on a mobile website


Mobile sites are typically used in the research stages when users have not selected a provider and are trying to get a handle on the wider marketplace. Anything from general trip inspiration to flight comparisons and things to see and do are all performed on mobile sites.

Once selections have been made users tend to move into apps to access and manage their booking.

Travel related activities that people prefer to conduct on a mobile app


Anything that makes travel tasks more convenient is likely to be adopted by the masses. Accessing booking information, reference numbers and boarding passes are all commonly completed tasks within mobile apps.


Loyalty programs and reward schemes receive strong usage in this sector. Apps lend themselves well to personalisation; loyalty programs can be a much more individual experience when moved into an app environment.


Mobile apps have the distinct advantage of using a smartphone’s built-in GPS features which opens up the ability to provide helpful location based services via an app. From helpful notifications based on a user’s real time location to downloadable maps ahead of travel overseas or to areas with poor signal, there are a wealth of creative ideas to use a person’s location information to aid their experience.

3.Extending your customers experience of your brand in the travel sector

The driving force of any mobile strategy for a brand in the travel space should be to establish as many touch points with their customers as possible throughout their travel experience. Improving that customer’s experience before, during and after their trip to become an integral part of their overall experience is how to capture market share.

Summer beach lifestyle young woman using phone app

Summer beach lifestyle young woman using phone app texting on smartphone relaxing at tropical Caribbean resort on hammock. Mobile wifi internet on travel holidays. Vacation fun.

Large brands such as AirBnB offer an in-app experience from start to finish, but for smaller brands it is a strong tactic to capture sales through their mobile site and then provide a follow up app to drive engagement post purchase.

An example of this strategy is Crystal Ski, who we worked with to build an app that gave holiday makers all their booking info at a glance, detailed piste maps and real time snow reports amongst other great features.

Read more about how the Crystal Ski Explorer app enhanced the end to end guest experience for Crystal Ski’s customers.

The verdict

Both mobile websites and mobile apps have their place in the travel sector but how to develop these for your business should come from understanding your customer’s current online behaviour and putting their travel experience at the centre of your plans.

It’s up to brands to think creatively about where they can add real value to their customer’s overall travel experience.