Statistically Dissecting Mobile Web and App Trends

Patrick McMullen

We all know that people spend a ton of digital time on mobile devices, specifically in apps. So, I often hear from clients that they want a mobile app: a rightful discussion point for almost every B2B marketing plan. However, apps and websites both offer very distinct pros and cons that must be weighed. Many times, a company wants a mobile app for all the wrong reasons. In making your app a big hit with your audience, that's a big ask.

The techie side of me loves mobile apps. I can’t help it. They are cool and often very useful. And while we’ve developed several that have been very successful for clients, I’m naturally skeptical when clients ask whether or not to build one. Responsive web? There’s probably a strong case. Native, mobile app? We’re going to need to talk.

I recently spent a lot of time reviewing comScore’s 2016 Mobile App Report, and I’d like to dissect it to make sense of the ever-changing mobile landscape. In the digital B2B space, there are lots of caveats that need to be considered to ensure your digital strategy is on the right track, and this report provides some useful information.

Mobile Usage

First, let’s verify what we keep hearing. Mobile does rule. comScore’s graph below (Figure 1) shows that mobile devices trump desktop usage, which should not come as a surprise.

B2B folks, let’s keep in mind these figures include top-tier apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Google Maps and YouTube. They are in a different realm entirely, which greatly skews the results for those of us who offer apps that are, quite frankly, not as hip or fun.

 

(Figure 1)

The Web Is Alive and Well

There is a common misconception that app space is “killing” the web as we know it. In 2014, I rebutted a Wall Street Journal article stating that “The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It” — a broad, short-sighted judgment based mainly on statistics showing that more time is spent on apps than on the internet. While that may be true, there are plenty of other factors that would have to change before the web becomes at risk of declining importance.

The web is still growing, and it’s growing because of an increased mobile web audience. In B2B, this is pretty important, right? The graph below (Figure 2) shows that the mobile app audience is growing relatively slowly at this point. The mobile web audience, however, is skyrocketing — at nearly double the pace!

Yes, it would appear the web is alive and well.

(Figure 2)

The bottom line is that there is good reason to continue to invest in and perfect your website. If you still don’t have a responsive website (and I really hope you do), this should almost always be done before you start delving into app projects.

Mobile Apps and the Internet Both Have Their Place

If you are looking for new customers, look to the web first and embrace the fact that more users will continue to come from mobile devices. A mobile app should be considered when you’re looking to increase loyalty or user engagement beyond the web. Figure 3 illustrates that a popular, well-received app has the capability to obtain very high amounts of engagement in terms of time spent. Creating an app that drives high levels of engagement? That’s the real challenge.

(Figure 3)

The data illustrated in Figure 3 is skewed, however. According to comScore’s findings, more than 60 percent of overall time spent on apps can be attributed to the user’s top two apps. Figure 4 pulls out users’ top apps, which are most likely social media or “daily life” apps like Facebook or Google Maps. We can see significantly less user engagement via apps compared to what these high-level statistics might lead us to believe.

(Figure 4)

Promoting Your Mobile App

Many businesses assume their customers will scramble to an app store to download their app, but the space is incredibly crowded and it can be very difficult to break through the ranks. While the average mobile user downloads 3.5 apps per month, comScore reports that the numbers of downloads per month are heavily skewed again, with 13 percent of all users accounting for more than half of all app downloads in a month. See Figure 5 below.

(Figure 5)

Simply building and submitting your app to app stores is not enough. It takes thoughtful advertising and effort to draw users to an app, often through “word-of-mouth” methods (professional referrals, social media) or traditional marketing approaches (paid advertising). Ironically, websites are cited as an increasingly common app discovery channel. See Figure 6 Below.

(Figure 6)

B2B Mobile App Challenges

The biggest challenge we face in the digital B2B space is that our apps typically compete in categories where apps aren’t readily used. The following chart shows the share of digital time spent for mobile apps, based on content category. Many B2B companies target capabilities like information portals and other information repositories for their mobile apps, which rank low in terms of the percentage of app time use. See Figure 7 below. Again, don’t assume that just because so much time is spent on mobile apps, that a B2B app is likely to experience success.

(Figure 7)

Creating a Holistic Digital Strategy

Mobile apps have been the rage for quite some time, so many within B2B marketing want to hop on the bandwagon. Take my word for it: there are complexities and risks involved with this type of endeavor, particularly in B2B. It’s imperative you have a well-designed, unique offering that makes your users deem it necessary to “put you in their pocket”. Duplicating what you offer on your website isn’t good enough; people still use the web for that kind of information.

Once you have an app strategy, I suggest employing some level of research or voice of customer to test your hypothesis. App development can be costly, and obtaining a sound indication of its likely acceptance is prudent. Once that’s done, surround it with a complete marketing plan. App stores are flooded with apps, so look for other mediums to help your target audience discover the useful tools that might benefit them.

It’s also important to realize that the good ol’ fashioned internet is still a major player in the digital realm, despite being “old news” compared to mobile apps. The web has a significantly larger audience, which is being bolstered by increased growth in mobile devices. People are still turning to the web for initial research about products and services, companies, and yes — even mobile apps! The web needs to be the focal point your overall digital strategy, even if you already have some successful apps in the market.

Clear as mud, right? The bottom line is this: the web is alive and well, and much of what you need to accomplish as a B2B marketer can be done via mobile web. Looking for an app? There might be a viable case — but let’s make sure.

Contact us if you’d like us to help make more sense of the complex digital world.

Or perhaps you can find an app for that.

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