Consumers now spend more time on apps in their devices than they do watching television or using desktop computers. While this reality might tempt some marketers to abandon other digital marketing channels in favor of branded app development, Thomas Husson, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, cautions otherwise.
“Time spent on mobile is skyrocketing. Since about 80% of that time is spent on apps, many marketing leaders have quickly jumped to the conclusion that the only way to reach and engage their customers is through their own branded apps. Wrong!” declared Husson in a report posted on January 30, 2015.
Husson went on to state that marketers need to “broaden their mobile approach beyond their own apps.” While on average, U.S. and U.K. consumers use 24 apps per month, more than 80% of their time is spend on just five apps. [See Figure 1]
As seen in Figure 1 above, Facebook (first place) and YouTube (second place) continue their neck-to-neck battle for popularity; while Google Maps, Pandora, and Gmail fill the remaining three spots. Google is slightly gaining on Facebook based on the total time spent across all its platforms.
“Time spent on mobile apps is concentrated among few apps, skewing massively toward messaging and social media apps — not gaming, as is commonly assumed,” Husson wrote. “Marketers should borrow their way to their customers’ home screens by partnering with the few apps that command the majority of consumers’ mobile prime time.” While some vendor apps, like Starbucks and Nike, are doing well, many more fail at delivering real mobile benefits.
Husson also emphasized that while mobile apps generate huge amounts of money, “monetizing apps is a challenge for the majority of developers.” For instance, Apple’s App Store revenues have increased 41% year-on-year, reporting more than $10 billion in revenues from app sales. Though this might sound impressive, the number is actually a cumulative stat over the past seven years and represents a small percentage of Apple’s overall revenue.
Most importantly, the Forrester report confirmed that apps can provide real engagement opportunities if marketers are able to determine the overlap between the most engaging apps and the most popular ones among their brand’s customer base. Forrester’s App Engagement Index indicated that only a small number of apps can offer real engagement, including Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
Husson advises those who are already in the app business to think long and hard about these findings in order to maximize the potential of mobile apps. While apps can be a great tool to reach customers, marketers are better off partnering with experienced developers than trying to create app experiences from scratch on their own.
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