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Product Strategy

Native vs. Hybrid vs. Responsive for eCommerce App development

Nisha Gopinath Menon

From when mobile applications were solely meant for large multinational cooperations to today when budding businesses engage the option of having their application reach their clientele faster and serve their customers better, the app development market evolved.

Applications are now a necessary component, an integral cog in putting your business online, and open to millions of people across the globe. They help build a sturdy brand image, gain customer trust and loyalty and increase the sales and profitability of the company by providing value to the customers.

The E-commerce industry is highly competitive, considering giants like Amazon and Flipkart are the creme-de-la-creme, majorly preferred platforms for the global market. However, with new businesses rising every day, e-commerce has extended to selling all utilities, from textile, food, books, and gadgets to medicines, consultation, and therapy.

Choosing an eCommerce application for mobile devices for reaching your target consumers is the best way to grow your business in the cutthroat retail environment, fulfill customer demands and keep them engaged. While developing an eCommerce application may seem a straightforward step towards taking your business online, it primarily involves choosing the right application development approach.

Why is it important to choose an application development approach?

Deciding on an application development approach is essential to developing a high-performing, cost-effective, user-friendly application. Business owners have so many unique and consumer-alluring ideas they wish to implement, but it often fails due to them not paying heed to the development approach.

There are three main kinds of application development approaches that help business owners and application developers decide the nature of the application, its capabilities, cost-effectiveness, and user-friendliness. Each approach offers various advantages, disadvantages, potential, and purposes to the applications.

The three types of application approaches are:

Native Application Development Hybrid Application Development
Responsive Application Development

We have put together the functionalities, merits, and limitations of each approach to help you choose wisely for your application and the future of your eCommerce business. Read ahead to gain clarity on which eCommerce application development approach is best for you.

1. Native Application Development

Native applications are designed to run only one operating system at a time, depending on the language used for development. Simply put, these applications are developed in programming languages specifically for that OS.

For example, applications for Android devices are developed in Java, while iOS applications are developed using Swift. Therefore, developers must maintain two separate codes for one application to install it on both operating systems. Native applications can be installed on mobile devices through Apple App Store (for iOS users) or Google PlayStore (for Android users). Whatsapp, Twitter, and Facebook are some famous examples of Native applications.

  • User Experience: Since native apps are created for one specific operating system at a time and are compiled using the platform's core programming language and APIs, they are faster and better optimized as compared to Hybrid or Responsive applications. They have a significantly lesser loading time. Native apps promise high performance, efficiency, and a commendable user experience.
  • Security: Native apps offer guaranteed data security since the information stored is encrypted and embedded into the code. Additionally, they have comparatively fewer bugs since their development does not require the use of cross-platforms such as Xamarin, PhoneGap, or Ionic.
  • Interactiveness: Native apps are more intuitive and interactive with users because their design can be easily integrated with most features of an operating system, thus adding efficiency and seamlessness to the user experience.
  • Access to various features: Native apps have access to the built-in features of smartphones and the operating system it was programmed for, such as Camera, GPS, Media Player, Messages, MicroPhone, etc. These apps can also optimize push notifications to alert the users about updates, new application features, etc. They are also highly reliable since the apps can be run without an Internet connection.
  • Costly: The total cost of developing a native app and its maintenance is very high for budding businesses just starting. This is so because one app has to be re-developed using different languages for each operating system and maintained individually on every platform.
  • Time Consuming: Developing and maintaining separate versions of the same application for each operating system is time-consuming in addition to expensive

2. Hybrid Application Development

Hybrid applications are a mixture of both web and native applications, which simply means they have components of both- HTML and CSS and Native programming languages. The core of the application is written by the developers in HTML and then a native device wrapper is placed around it to make it compatible with iOS or Android, thus making the application “Hybrid.”

The best part about Hybrid applications is that they can be installed into smartphones using Google PlayStore or Apple App Store and be accessed using web browsers.

The native elements in the application help users access it on mobile devices, while the HTML core makes the application run on web browsers. Amazon, Instagram, and Netflix are great examples of successful Hybrid app development.

  • Cost-effective: In the case of Hybrid app development, developers do not have to create three separate codes to run an application on three individual platforms (iOS, Android, and Web Browser). This saves businesses time, resources, and money, making the approach much more desirable for many.
  • Compatible with Cross-platforms: Hybrid apps are compatible with multiple cross-platforms, such as Xamarin, React Native, Adobe PhoneGap, and more, for convenient application development for multiple operating systems.
  • Easily accessible: Like Native applications, Hybrid apps can access various in-built features such as GPS, Camera, etc., of an Android or iOS-powered smartphone. Additionally, it can also operate without Internet connectivity.
  • Low-Quality Performance: Compared to native applications, the user interface and transition of Hybrid apps are not as seamless. The app takes relatively longer to load, and the graphics are not of the highest quality, even though the phone has superior display capabilities. Simple apps with no complex features are usually recommended for hybrid development.
  • This is so because Hybrid apps cannot exploit a device’s functionalities to the utmost without additional plug-ins, making the code more complicated and prone to bugs.

3. Responsive Web Application Development

Although applications are preferred for businesses to market and sell their products and services, an interactive and user-friendly web experience is equally important. The Responsive Web Apps Approach is popularly known to engage a high customer retention rate for businesses, making it a fairly chosen option for application development.

Responsive Web Applications are developed using JavaScript or HTML and offer a similar experience to an application. Additionally, they provide an exquisite web experience on the mobile device and a wide range of layouts, quality graphics, and grids for an interactive user experience.

A Responsive Web App is programmed to automatically adjust its screen size, resolution, and image size according to its device, thus eliminating the need to develop an individual version of the app for each screen size.

  • Cost-efficiency: Since Responsive Web Apps can be accessed from any device and operating system, there is only one codebase and version of an application for all platforms, making it very affordable for budding businesses.
  • User Friendly: Responsive Web Apps are designed to cater to users' needs and are based on consumer behavior and the most common screen sizes and resolutions. The web app is developed to adjust automatically to any size and is apt for mobile viewing.
  • Low Maintenance: Since web apps are developed once, it requires very little maintenance with a single code base. Additionally, the web app uses the same content across all devices since it can be automatically adjusted.
  • SEO Friendly: Responsive Web Apps are popular for ranking at the top of the search engine, thanks to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is because responsive websites load faster on mobiles and tablets, increasing positive user experience and thus improving their search engine rankings.
  • Profitability: Since responsive websites are user friendly and SEO friendly, they are responsible for a boost in the company’s sales due to a large audience that visits the website every day.
  • Performance: A responsive website may be user-friendly; however, due to high-resolution graphics, or website traffic, it sometimes takes some time to load.
  • Time Consuming Development: The development of Responsive Web Apps takes a lot of time compared to Hybrid and Native applications.
  • Low Monetization: If you plan to monetize your business by increasing the downloads of the application, you cannot do so by opting for Responsive Web Apps because these apps are accessible by URLs on web browsers and not on App Stores of Android and iOS.

Final Takeaway

Like always, there is no particular “right” or “wrong” when choosing an application development approach for your eCommerce business.

While native apps provide you with fast performance, high-quality user experience, and other alluring features, hybrid apps are cost-effective and an excellent option for businesses desiring to go on the web and enjoy the benefits of an application. Responsive web apps are an equally beneficial option for businesses wanting to optimize SEO and provide a user-friendly experience to their customers.

However, your decision must be based upon a thorough understanding of the three approaches and an analysis of your eCommerce business model. Knowing your target market, allotting a fixed budget, and clarifying your requirements and need for various functionalities can help you make the final call.

At CognitiveClouds, we offer immense expertise in all aspects of eCommerce application development. Reach out to us to discuss your eCommerce application development plans with our team!

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Nisha Gopinath Menon