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Study: Mobile Apps For Engagement, Mobile Web For Research & Comparisons
Millward Brown study shows that consumers think clearly about the differences between apps and mobile web and use them for specific reasons.
The mobile web and apps are complementary. However they’ve been treated as though they’re mutually exclusive in the press and in most industry discussions. Now comes a Millward Brown study, “The New Mobile Mantra,” that offers some deeper insight into when people use apps and when they use the mobile web.
While this isn’t the first piece of research to compare mobile web and app usage. But it’s more nuanced than most and seeks to get at the consumer psychology and rationale behind the varying use cases. The study, conducted over the course of the first three quarters of 2015, is based on both an examination of click-stream data and consumer survey data (n=2,011 US smartphone owners over 18).
Millward Brown found that while apps command the most user time, “61 percent of smartphone users access their browsers at least once a day, spending an average of 31 minutes in total.”
Source: Millward Brown
Users have lots of apps installed on their phones but rarely use most of them. According to the study, more than half of smartphone owners have “40-70 apps installed on their devices . . . [but] many use only about 4-6 apps per day.” This echoes an earlier comScore finding that roughly 80 percent of smartphone app time is spent with a user’s top three apps.
The Millward Brown study argues that consumers resist downloading apps in many instances and are eager to clear them out if they’re neglected or under-perform in some way. The top reasons for deleting apps are the following:
- I rarely used the app
- I needed to free up memory on my phone
- I found the app was draining my phone battery
- I found better apps to replace them
- The app had too many technical issues
- The app was sending me too many ads or alerts
- The app wasn’t easy to use
- I was spending too much time using the app
As an aside, reasons 1 and 8 above are ironic opposites: if apps are underused or overused they’re likely to get the boot. People seem to want Goldilocks apps that are used not too much and not too little.
Source: Millward Brown
Millward Brown reports that there are patterns to app and mobile web usage (though they’re not rigid). Apps are for regular engagement, mobile web is for research and brand comparisons:
Our research found that for industries where consumers regularly engage with the brand, apps are dominant. For industries where heavy research and brand comparisons are needed to make or inform a purchase, browsers are more likely to be used.
The report goes into vertical specific use cases cited in the graphic above and identifies consumer preferences for apps vs. the mobile web: why they choose to use one vs. the other. Often the reasons cited are overlapping and not entirely distinct (e.g., convenience). However there are some conclusions and generalization the study presents.
When apps are most often used: when consumers “frequently engage with a brand, retailer, or publisher, or crave the convenience of an app for an activity they do regularly.”
Consumers in the study said that apps provide:
- Greater convenience through easier access
- Content is specialized for the task at hand
- User information is saved
When the mobile web is most often used: when consumers are “researching many brands and don’t want to download an app for each, or prefer to replicate the experience of their desktop.”
Consumers in the study said that the mobile web provides:
- Ability to switch between brands to conduct comparison research
- Avoids having too many apps downloaded
- Replicates browsing experience on desktop
One conclusion is that infrequent mobile use cases will be biased toward the mobile web. There are exceptions, however, such as research-intensive high-consideration purchases (e.g., cars or homes).
The report also doesn’t discuss apps and the mobile web as part of a customer segmentation strategy (i.e., for retailers: loyal vs. more casual customers). Nonetheless, the study is instructive and starts to help crystallize for marketers how they should think about apps and the mobile web as complementary tools to reach mobile audiences.