Mobile Marketing

App v Mobile Web? For Marketers It’s The Wrong Question

Many reports confirm what most of us already know instinctively; consumers are spending the majority of their time on mobile using apps.  In fact last year comScore reported that not only do apps dominate mobile usage, they now make up 52% of all digital media engagement in the U.S.   But what about the Mobile Web?  Is it time for marketers to abandon the web entirely and pour all their resources into apps?

Yes, Apps Dominate

According to comScore, customers in the U.S are spending 88% of their smartphone time and 82% of their tablet time using apps. This is consistent with Australian research from Nielsen late last year, which found that adult Australians spend 33 hours per month on smartphone apps compared to just under 4 hours using their smartphone browsers every month.  

But What About Mobile Web?

While apps certainly dominate all the usage charts, consumers don’t necessarily prefer one or the other, and there is some indication that ads may be seen as more intrusive within an app than on the mobile web.   From a content perspective, a lot of mobile web traffic originates from within apps (eg. clicking through to an article via Facebook) even though searching on the mobile web is still the number one way people find mobile sites.  For more detailed analysis, see this recent article from Digiday which reviews some recent reports and findings that have considered the app vs mobile web debate.

One of the biggest proponents of mobile web, Luke Wroblewski, recently shared his view that while mobile apps absolutely dominate time spent on mobile, it’s worth considering the nature of that time and how it applies to your strategy.  If reach is your ultimate goal, it may be preferable to target customers using mobile web. But if engagement and conversions are your goal, then apps win every time.   There’s certainly a place for both in an effective marketing strategy.

Do Marketers Need to Choose between Apps and Mobile Web?

The question is not the choice between Apps or Mobile Web, but which to use for which purpose?  The bottom line is, you probably need an element of both in your mix.  From there you can decide which marketing tactic makes the most sense for your organisation’s current goals.  Mobile web is important for discovery.  Mobile search engine optimisation is important and a mobile optimised web presence is essential.  Note that I said ‘mobile optimised’, not ‘mobile friendly’.  We’re not talking about checking to see if your website works on a mobile device.  We’re talking about building it for a mobile device in the first place; starting with mobile and optimising for those customers – because they are now the majority.  Brands should have a strong content focus and optimise that content for delivery on mobile devices.  

Mobile apps are great at engagement, conversions and rich media.  If your content is interactive, visual or highly engaging, then you probably need to consider mobile apps.  A large portion of mobile app traffic is on social media platforms so developing appropriate content for native mobile app distribution and sharing should be a priority.   Also important are strategies for reaching highly targeted audiences that are ready and willing to engage with that kind of content  

The challenge here should be about reaching the right audience with the right content.  This might mean building and marketing a branded app, but it might simply mean distributing your own rich, engaging content through other apps.  This kind of content is simply more effective and delivers better ROI in the app universe, but in some cases, distributing your rich app or content on the mobile web or via your mobile website can increase and expand your reach into the right audience.  There’s no absolute right answer for brands wanting to choose between apps and mobile web.  It’s really just a question of fit.  

Help Customers Transition between Apps and Mobile Web

A new Business Insider report published key findings about the important role that apps now play in how brands reach consumers.  But one of their most important recommendations was to reduce the inconveniences consumers find when transitioning between browsers and apps.  

Many customers abandon content when things get too complicated. Google’s new in-‘app streaming’ technology makes an effort to simplify the process by allowing consumers to stream app content in search results within the browser.  Although this saves customers from first downloading an app, it only solves one part of the problem.  Brands need to be conscious of their expectations on consumers when transitioning between app and mobile web, as well as moving customers to desktop or other communication platforms like email or social media.

Business Insider’s recommendations also include respecting how personal a mobile device is and avoiding over-communication and pushy marketing tactics.  The key message here is to approach every audience differently, with targeted messages and a personalised approach.

Australian Marketers Plan To Focus on Apps in 2016.

At the start of 2015, Salesforce reported that 70% of Australian marketers would be investing in mobile app development in the coming year.  This year’s 2016 Salesforce State of Marketing report found that, while some marketers were a little ambitious, 54% of Australian Marketers are now using mobile applications with a further 20% intending to carry out their invest in mobile apps in 2016.   

Late last year we shared a Localytics report that highlighted data and benchmarks to help brands develop strategies from app growth.   With a focus on mobile app engagement, the report recommended creating personalised experiences with push notifications and in-app messages to increase retention rates.  We also shared a similar finding from Marketingland Columnist Brent Hieggelke (again using U.S Data), noting that retailers can double app engagement rates by using push notifications to encourage consumers to return to their mobile app.

According to Localytics,  Australians are well aware of these tools and embracing them wholeheartedly, with mobile push notifications up 145% to nearly half of all marketers, and another 22% planning to invest in push notifications in 2016.

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