Is Mercedes Benz, the epitome of luxury, skimping on a smartphone app? Unless, Benz has a compelling explanation, I am inclined to think so. Benz is skimping on a few thousand dollars to bring out a smartphone app. Instead it has released a lousy mobile optimized website. You can check the website by going to m.mercedes-benz.co.in. I highly recommend you don’t. But unless you do, you wouldn’t understand what Benz is up to.
Benz was lavish when it comes to the keystrokes or taps one has to endure to get to its content. Where a single download and one touch would do, users have to indulge in typing twenty characters of the url only to find more horror waiting. The page starts off with four to five images of various Benz cars which are just pictures without click through. A waste of space, functionality and most valuable time of the users. Once you scroll past you will find four to five broad categories but one has to use the browser back button to go through the app. Jumping to an entirely different section without coming to the home page isn’t even possible. The site is not easy to navigate.
Why would a luxury car maker build a mobile website which isn’t easily navigable? Absolutely no idea. Here’s the final irony :
“Our mobile-optimised website will ensure that customers and enthusiasts of the Mercedes brand enjoy far greater levels of interactivity than any other manufacturer in India,” Mercedes-Benz India General Manager (Corporate Communications & Strategic Planning) Manas Dewan said.
“Features like fast browsing, video and flash content, easy navigation and enhanced interface will further enhance browsing experience,” he added.
In the times (dated : 16 Jun 2011) I live in, we have what we call smartphones and apps to go with them. A concept of app store has come in and companies are fighting just over the name of the appstore. And these apps by the way provide ‘greater levels of interactivity’. Mobile websites (remember WAP) have been around for a while and they are older than the apps itself. Yet mobile websites just did not get their time. They might get it some day but today is not it.
Mercedes Benz doesn’t have a need to interact with its customers in real time. Thus avoiding the need for a constantly updated site and content. An app with the static content would have been a 5 MB download and would have just stayed there. There is absolutely no need to worry about flash content or fast browsing. Whenever a internet connection is needed the app can go online. There are now close to a million smartphone apps across platforms and we know a thing or two about faster browsing and enhanced browsing.
Financial Times has recently skipped an app and went with a HTML 5 mobile website. FT needs a near real-time syndication and go through the development of apps for five different platforms wouldn’t have made sense. FT’s mobile website is neatly designed which provides a near app functionality. Benz isn’t in the same category. Its content is mostly static. Besides Benz is a luxury brand a brand we associate with richness. Not having a smartphone app but going with a mobile website is anything but rich. In fact not having a smartphone app is a lesser sin than having a ersatz of mobile website. Mercedes Benz should know better.