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Mobile devices are plentiful. Of the nearly 7 billion people on the planet over 5 billion of them have a cell phone. Yet only 4.2 billion people in the world have a tooth brush.
According to a 2013 report from USA Today, consumers are more inclined to use their mobile devices than desktop and laptop computers, where 80% of their time is spent on using apps. A strong mobile presence needs to be included in any dental marketing strategy.
In planning your mobile presence one of the first considerations is whether you want to create a mobile application for users to download (app) or a mobile website which they access via a browser on their mobile device, or perhaps both.
Apps versus Mobile Website
Mobile websites and apps look very similar at first-glance, and deciding which is most suited to your needs will depend upon a number of factors. Starting with the website, a dental practice may require both.
The main difference between a mobile app and a mobile website is that the app is a self-contained application that uses the hardware of the device. It’s able to access features and functions of the device such as the camera and touch-screen technology.
A mobile website is like any other website it can display text, data, images and video using browser based HTML pages. The obvious difference is that a mobile website is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface.
Rather than building a normal website and a separate mobile website, most websites will be built using a responsive design. How the website looks and behaves will depend on what device it is being viewed.
Mobile website first
A mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence. For marketing your dental practice to new patients having a mobile friendly website is imperative.
A mobile website is instantly accessible to users via a browser across a range of devices. Apps on the other hand require the user to first download and install the app from an app marketplace before the content or application can be viewed. This can be a significant barrier between initial engagement and conversion.
Updating content on a mobile website is easier. Changing the design or content of a mobile website requires a single edit where the changes are immediately visible. Updating an app requires the updates being sent to users, which then must be downloaded by every user in order to update the app on each type of device.
When to use an app
If your objectives are marketing-driven then a mobile website is the logical choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for interactive engagement with users, or need to provide services, functions or applications that work like a computer program then you will require an app.
With an app you can offer specific and interactive services that enhance the patient’s experience and the level of customer service offered by your dental practice. An app can be used to help manage appointments, provide information about treatments, manage bills and insurance claims as well as handle referrals.
Many dental offices are increasingly taking advantage of mobile apps and using smartphone and tablet technology within their practice to lower administrative costs and stream line processes, assist patients with educational materials, manage patient treatments and visits as well as being a general communication platform.
As well as having apps developed specifically for their practice, you can find on iStore or for Android a range of free and commercially developed applications that can be downloaded and implemented within your practice. These apps provide a wide range of functions and capabilities from tools that help explain the latest dental treatments for patients to apps that allow patients to make appointments and access their records.