The Pew Research Center reports that 92 percent of U.S. adults have a cellphone of some kind. Almost all (90 percent) say that their phone is frequently with them, while nearly a third (31 percent) never turn off their phone. Deloitte expects digital interactions to influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores by the end of 2015.\n\u00a0I\u2019ve expected the shift in consumer behavior toward what I\u2019ll call \u201cmobile-first, always-on\u201d would so evident that the time when even a very conservative company could defend a \u201cwait and see\u201d approach to digital transformation would end. That time may be near.\n\u00a0In a survey we conducted of 300 executives in large U.S. companies, just 4 percent said digital transformation had \u201cno impact\u201d to date on the customer or partner experience. And only 6 percent reported that a company-wide digital transformation initiative was neither underway nor expected within the next 12 months.\n\u00a0Momentum to \u201cdo something\u201d to adapt to mobile-first, always-on consumers has spawned an \u201capp versus web\u201d debate.\u00a0 I\u2019ve encountered a few variations of the argument. Some are purely tactical \u2013 about, for example, the best way to implement a feature. But one in particular I\u2019ve come to see as a red flag for overall digital strategy.\nAny question framed along the lines \u201cgiven the shift in consumer behavior, should we choose a native app or mobile web if we can\u2019t afford both?\u201d immediately raises two questions.\n\u00a0The first if \u201cwhat we can afford\u201d is based on an assumption that the way the company invests in in growth (through, for example, marketing and advertising) will stay mostly the same in the future.\n\u00a0The second is if \u201cwhat we can afford\u201d is based on an assumption that the way the company makes money \u2013 including both the business it is in and the motions for value creation \u2013 will stay mostly the same as well.\n\u00a0If the answer is yes to both, then I see a high risk the company\u2019s digital strategy will boil down to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That\u2019s because other established companies have already set the bar for using digital to change each in disruptive ways.\n\u00a0Two companies \u2013 for a specific reason that I\u2019ll share shortly \u2013 illustrate why there\u2019s reason to worry that you may have already lost the long game if you\u2019re stuck on \u201capp versus web.\u201d\n\u00a0Walgreens\u2019 predates the digital era by a long way.\u00a0 As a company it dates back to 1909, when Charles Walgreen, Sr. founded his second pharmacy. Since then it has grown into a \u201cbrick and mortar\u201d behemoth: three-quarters of the U.S. population lives within five minutes of one of Walgreen\u2019s 8,000 plus stores.\nToday, Walgreens customers who engage with three channels (store, mobile and web) spend on average six times as much as those who engage with physical stores alone. Walgreens has had a loyalty program of some sort for a while. But now users of third-party fitness apps or devices can link that account to Walgreens Balance Rewards loyalty program to earn points for activities such as walking and running.\u00a0As of April 2015, 800,000 users had connected 250,000 devices, sharing 1.5 million fitness goals with Walgreens.\nBurberry\u2019s storied legacy dates back even farther before the digital era. Thomas Burberry founded the brand in 1856. The iconic \u201ctrench coat\u201d didn\u2019t get its name from a \u201cMad Men\u201d \u2013 style Madison Avenue focus group.\u00a0 Burberry adapted its coats to meet the needs of officers on the front during the First World War, giving rise to the phrase.\u00a0\nToday, Burberry equips its in-store staff with iPad-based clienteling apps that give them immediate access to customer purchase history and personalized analytics-driven product recommendations. In-store iPads account for over 25 percent of digital sales.\u00a0 Digital campaigns like \u201cArt of the Trench\u201d and \u201cBurberry Kisses\u201d have won it more than a million Twitter followers and 13 million Facebook fans.\nWalgreens and Burberry are great case studies because Walgreens has done all this (and more) by offering consumers an award-winning native mobile app (and lately, a native Apple Watch app). Conversely, Burberry has done all this (and more) while not offering any native mobile apps to consumers. (Disclosure: Walgreens and Burberry are customers of my employer, Apigee.) \u00a0\nThese 100-plus-year-old companies demonstrate that either native apps or mobile web technologies can have game-changing impact. The crux is asking if the mobile-first, always-on consumer means that:\n\nThere are new and better ways to build our brand?\nWe have an opportunity to mobilize an ecosystem that will create value with and for us?\nWe have a chance to break old industry boundaries?\n\nCEO Angela Ahrendts was clear on the new ways to invest in growth she saw for Burberry: "We decided to target our marketing spending on the millennial consumer\u2026[W]e communicated and engaged with this younger customer using their mother tongue: digital, which would also give us the greatest reach for our limited marketing budget. That\u2019s when the digital transformation started for Burberry."\nLikewise, Adam Couch, director of Walgreens\u2019 digital commerce product management aims high: \u201cOffline and online have blurred in the minds of consumers\u2026 We\u2019re figuring out how to\u00a0use digital to take convenience to the next level.\u201d For Walgreens, that \u201cnext level\u201d includes venturing into telehealth as a line of business and leveraging its digital relationship with consumers to branch into medication adherence.\nWalgreens and Burberry exemplify the potential of challenging the status quo. \u00a0An interminable debate centered on shoehorning \u201csomething mobile\u201d into business as usual is a sign of giving that potential short shrift. Take on the big questions and the methods will follow.\nThe opinions expressed in this Blog are those of Bryan Kirchner and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.