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How to market HTML5 apps without the benefit of an app store

Native and Web-based applications offer a variety of different pluses and minuses, including on the marketing front, with native apps benefitting from the awareness of app stores while HTML5 apps offer greater reach and advertising potential.

Mobile apps continue to be a big focus for marketers as does how to make consumers aware of these offerings. One of the biggest advantages from a marketing perspective of native apps ? and a significant disadvantage of mobile Web-based apps ? is being able to distribute the app through an app store that is easily available from the home screen of a device.

?The idea that an icon is on your home screen and that all you have to do is click on it to access apps is a considerable advantage because that is where you know to go to access whatever apps you are trying to access and even those aren?t tech savvy know to go there,? said Dipesh Mukerji, senior director of product Strategy at Kony, Orlando, FL.

?You do not have that with a mobile Web app, which is a significant challenge for HTML 5 because the same kind of visibility isn?t there,? he said.

Easy access
While the debate continues about whether to build apps that are native, HTML 5 mobile Web-based or hybrid based on the relative merits of the user experience for each, it is also important for marketers to consider the relative marketing benefits and challenges of each,

Mobile users are familiar with icons and using them to access to apps. While the icon for a native app shows up automatically once it is downloaded, with HTML 5 apps users are required to click on a specific area within their browser to make the app an icon on their home page, something that many users are not aware of.

However, HTML 5 apps offer a significant advantage when it comes to advertising because they are more easily accessible from a QR code.

Marketers can place a QR code in a banner ad, on print ads and billboards that links directly to an HTML5 app, enabling users to quickly and easily access the app and begin using it.

With native apps, the process is more cumbersome, with the QR code most likely taking users to an app store, which has to launch and then users have to find the app they are interested in and download it before being able to use it.

?If I put a QR code on a billboard, someone can use their device and look at that QR code and immediately launch the app if it is an HTML5 app. You instantly are playing with the app after you look at the QR code,? Mr. Mukerji said.

?That is a huge advantage,? he said. ?It is a lot easier to advertise your app with HTML5.?

Broad reach
HTML5 also offers broader reach than native apps, with users of feature phones as well as smartphones able to access mobile Web-based apps. Such reach can be important for marketers that are trying to build an international audience for their apps as feature phones still dominate in many markets.

Being able to reach feature phone users enables marketers to send a text message to users with a link to a mobile Web app that can immediately be launched.

?Features phones and everything that is digital has a browser but not everything that is digital has an app store,? Mr. Mukerji said.

?If you think of the advertising in terms of a global concept, feature phones are still used quite a bit outside of America,? he said.

?That is a huge reach you are getting if you doing it right and you are building your mobile Web apps to optimize for all of these browsers.?

There are some challenges with building mobile Web apps for the many different browsers that might be used worldwide but this is still the best way to reach a wide audience.

Rich experiences
Another challenge of HTML5 apps is that the user experience is typically not as rich as it is for native apps. With all apps having a 75 percent drop-off rate after the first use, this means that while advertising may be easier, marketers will be challenged to drive acquisition rates for HTML5 apps.

?Of that 25 percent that stay, people are staying longer with the native apps than they are with the HTML5 apps,? Mr. Mukerji said.

?Your ability to drive conversion rates and acquisition is going to be higher from native apps than it is with HTML5 apps even though the breadth, depth and reach of mobile Web apps might be more,? he said.

Hybrid apps that have a native shell and mobile content fall into the native category in terms of marketing strategy as they are typically found on app stores.

Some of the brands will successful HTML 5 apps include Facebook, CNN and Wall Street Journal. While all also offer native apps, the mobile Web apps can offer important advantages when it comes to advertising.

?The app store is the key way that people find and do discovery but the breadth, depth and reach of HTML5 and more places that you can put the advertising is something that the native app would never be able to compete against,? Mr. Mukerji said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York