Native Capabilities Your Website Can’t Have

May 21, 2024

Mobile phones are amazing. There is no doubt about that. They enable your customers to easily visit your website from anywhere, at any time. If you check your website analytics, you’ll likely see that most visits are from mobile devices (313% more in 2023, according to Semrush).

But are you taking advantage of this by leveraging the mobile platform to the fullest? Let’s look at some of the capabilities that are only available on the native mobile platform, and which you, and your customers, can benefit from by providing your customers with a mobile app.

Push Notifications

Yes, you can use push notifications for a website, but users are much more likely to allow push notifications permission for an app (17% vs 60%). Additionally, native apps get access to powerful features you can’t use on your website, such as scheduled notifications, custom media handling, background notifications that can keep your app’s data synced in the background and more.

Kernel ‘Your food is ready’ push notification image showing the ‘Open Cubby’ action button

Live Activities

If you want to keep your customers informed about an order being processed, imminent delivery, or flash sale, then Live Activities (or Live Updates on Android) may be the perfect fit! Instead of making your customers check their emails or load up your website, you can tell them what they need to know simply by glancing at their lock screen or notification center.

Kernel Live Activity Screenshot

Camera access

You can access a user's webcam from a website, but it’s not something that your customers will expect or be used to. Conversely, using a phone camera in a mobile app is very common. It’s easy to use the camera to take photos from within a native app, which can then be edited, uploaded, and used for any number of purposes, but there are many more possibilities.

For example, you can turn the camera into a barcode or QR code scanner, use it to capture colours for product personalization, record videos to help verify a user’s identity or add Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to scan documents and instantly extract the text directly in the app.

Puma App barcode scanner

Biometric authentication

There is a reason why logging into a banking app is much easier that logging into a banking website - Biometric authentication!

More that 80% of smartphones now support biometric authentication, providing a quick, easy, and secure authentication method that does not require customers to remember any passwords or receive any codes, as all the necessary details can be locked away securely on the device and only made accessible once the customers fingerprint or face has been checked.

A banking app login screen showing a faceid prompt

Augmented Reality

It is possible to implement augmented reality experiences using a mobile device camera and, optionally, a lidar scanner when available. This can be great for educational apps and games (Pokémon GO, anyone?), but it really shines when used for virtual try-ons. Using 3D models of things like shoes, clothes, or even furniture, a potential customer can make a more informed purchase decision.

Puma AR Shoe try on screenshot

Offline support

Native mobile apps can store data securely directly on the device, as well as update that data periodically in the background. This means that they can provide first-class offline support. Some features are not possible without an internet connection, like checking live inventory data, but it’s possible to allow customers to browse product information, view the latest promotions, or build a shopping cart, for example, all while offline.

If your customers are prevented from using your website due to a lack of reliable internet connection, then a native app with offline capabilities may be exactly what you require.

No wifi connection icon

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is used to communicate and integrate with various sensors and other devices, such as fitness trackers, headphones, or even other phones. If you want to communicate with your own custom Bluetooth devices, you will most likely need to create a mobile app to allow that. Some Bluetooth functionality is available for websites, though it's not as flexible as for native apps.

iBeacons, small Bluetooth devices that may be placed in known locations, can be used together with a native mobile app that launches in the background whenever a customer comes near a beacon. These can be used for things like notifying a user of a special offer when they are near a store or helping with in-store navigation when multiple beacons are used in the same location.

Bluetooth Icon

Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication (NFC) is the technology that powers contactless payments, and it's available to anyone as a capability of a native mobile app. There is a huge variety of NFC tag forms and possible use cases, all of which can be leveraged through a custom native app. For example, NFC tags can be included in POS packaging, allowing customers to get additional product details simply by tapping it with their phone, or customers can access feedback forms or online review sites with a simple tap of their phone.

A photo of a contactless payment being made

Geolocation & Geofencing

Knowing a user's physical location can be very helpful in providing them with a great user experience. This can be done on a website as well as in a native app, but some capabilities are only available to a native app. Native apps can receive location updates when the app is in the background, or they can receive location updates when the user enters/exits specific locations or areas (known as Geofencing). It’s also possible to get regular location updates with speed and direction as a user is moving around, which is perfect for navigation.

A map pin icon

If you have hit the limit of what is possible on the web, then consider a native mobile app, as the powerful and flexible capabilities that are available can enable you to provide powerful experiences to your customers.

At Nearform, we have lots of experience in crafting highly-rated native apps using React Native which your customers will love.

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