Most businesses now accept that mobile is a large segment the web commerce market. To be more mobile friendly can be a strong advantage over your competitors not only in usablity, but with search ranking as well (Since April 2015 Google changed its ranking criteria to favour mobile friendly sites). Therefore the question then becomes how far and how much do you need to invest in the mobile user market.
Generally, our rule is responsive for all sites, with few exceptions. Mobile Apps to compliment larger strongly branded companies. The reason we don't recommend smaller businesses invest in normally comes down to two points; cost of development then maintenance across multiple platforms and user uptake of the app.
Mobile App development and maintenance:
Generally the cost of developing a mobile App is a lot more than a good responsive website. Along with the development cost, you still need all the server infrastructure and specialist developers plus your regular eCommerce developers for your website. Additionally, you'll need to keep updating the platform to run on the latest update. All this will compound your running costs so needs to be clearly viable before commencing.
This is normally the nail in the coffin for most Mobile app developments. How will users find your Mobile app? If you have enough users to make it available on your website and get a good deal of uptake then your probably in the branded business zone. If you don't then you'll be relying on uptake from somewhere like Google store or iTunes store. So the question then becomes, why would someone be searching through the app store for an app to buy something online? they wouldn't be in most cases, unless your a branded business, such as; K-Mart, eBay, Bendon, Trade-me, telstra, Target or woolworths.
User uptake is often the least thought about concept when doing a development of any type (or business in general). It is not enough to develop a website or Mobile App and put it online. All online business need a marketing plan, just like a normal business. Your Mobile App should come after the business is established and branded. (Note: There are some exceptions).
Responsive Vs App
While Mobile Apps can sound very cool and a panacea the relatity is often far from this. Our suggestion is responsive website first. Then collect your sales and analytic data and make a cost benefit analysis of whether a Mobile App will be profitable.