A Native or Non-Native App?

(Editor’s note: Today we initiate a new feature in which readers can ask questions about tradeshow management, exhibit sales, attendee promotion, technology…whatever they like. Send your question to Executive Editor Michael Hart at mhart@accessintel.com and we will contact the appropriate tradeshow professional and get the question answered. This week’s question is directed to James apo, vice president of digital business development for Access Intelligence.)

Question: “We’re talking to vendors right now about a mobile app. We have a pretty small show, this is the first time we’ve considered an app and, I hate to say it, but I don’t necessarily understand a lot of things the vendors’ sales people are talking about.

“So, can you tell me: What’s the difference between a native and a non-native app? And


should I care? What difference will it make to us? While I’m at it, any other tips you have for us as we look around for the first time?”

James Capo: “To start, this is a very common question. The main difference is that native apps are distributed and downloaded to the device from the appropriate device’s app store while web-based apps (or non-native) can only be accessed through either a URL link provided to the user or when users open their phones’ web browsers and enter a URL.

“They generally have the same basic functionality, but there are a few key differences. For me, the biggest is push notification. Web-based apps cannot send push notifications to the device.

“A push notification is like a text message. Even if the user does not have the app open, the show can ‘push’ a message to the device that the user will then see. Push notifications are a great tool for crowd control (session change notifications or emergency announcements) and it offers a revenue opportunity (sponsors can promote their booth location, a product, happy hour, etc.).

“Another thing to consider is how the user ‘finds your app.’ When it comes to smartphones, it is my opinion that users are now conditioned to go to the ‘app stores’ to find and download the app.

“If you only offer a web-based app—and the user is not aware of this or doesn’t know what it means—they may search for your show’s app in the app stores but find nothing. This is why I generally see lower engagement metrics with web-based apps. It can be an issue when you are selling advertising within the app since the sponsor may not feel they ‘got their money’s worth.’

“One nice thing about web-based apps: They are generally cheaper to create and are platform-agnostic—meaning no matter the device (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), the mobile web page should work fine.

“With native apps you need to create an app for each platform. This is not as big a deal as it sounds as most vendors have apps for the two main mobile platforms (iPhone and Android; there are fewer and fewer BlackBerrys all the time) and include these platforms in the cost of the app.

“I’m glad to hear you are considering a mobile strategy for your tradeshow. Mobile apps offer a great attendee experience, new revenue streams and some potential cost savings! (No more—or at least fewer—show directories to print.)”

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