At last week’s Consumer Engagement Technology World conference, I led round table discussions on the topic of “Demystifying the Mobile App Ecosystem.” My topic was part of a round robin Mobile Strategies Workshop in which I met with five different groups over the course of two hours.

I really enjoyed the musical chair nature of the workshop, answering a range of questions as diverse as the attendees’ business backgrounds. While each of my conversations were centered around mobile apps, they all ended up being very different. The attendees at each table ultimately shaped unique discussions around the opportunities and risks inherent in launching a mobile application.

I started each conversation with a few charts that highlight accelerating smartphone adoption in the US. These statistics provided the foundation for why each attendee, whether he worked for a retailer, an out-of-home company, a display manufacturer, or a media agency, needed to think about the evolution of mobile engagement through the lens of a smartphone user.

As you can see from the charts above, smartphones are becoming the norm in our increasingly mobile society. With that in mind, companies need to think about how once standard mobile initiatives (where’s the short code?) must evolve to take advantage of the unique features of smart devices. In many cases, those conversations have revolved around thinking about APPS.

Mobile applications present opportunities to create an ongoing conversation with consumers that reach far beyond a mobile website. The caveat, however, is that the hurdle for initial adoption is significantly higher than driving a person to a mobile site. Once the app adoption hurdle is overcome, the path beyond that obstacle can be significantly smoother than the road offered by a dedicated mobile website. The mobile website hurdle, getting a consumer to navigate to your URL, is a challenge that never goes away.

The mobile app versus mobile web debate isn’t an either or proposition. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In reality, with the optimal strategy in place, each channel can be used to strengthen the other.

To be continued…