A New Look Inside The Mobile-First Economy

There’s got to be an app for that — but are consumers really engaged? That’s the million-dollar question on the digital economy docket today. And it’s at the center of comScore’s latest research report about the impact of mobile on driving digital media usage. We dug, we analyzed and we pulled out the Top 12 need-to-know stats about the shift in the smartphone app/Web share, how mobile drives engagement, and how mobile loyalty creates brand loyalty. And, of course, why that all matters for the payments and commerce ecosystem today.

In the year 2015, it’s a safe bet to assume there’s an app for that.

Particularly in the payments and commerce ecosystem, being consumer friendly means, first and foremost, being mobile friendly. And mobile optimized. And mobile app friendly. And mobile engaged.

And mobile.

Just as much as payments and commerce are converging, the push toward digital media apps has imploded in the past few years. In fact, comScore’s data show that digital media has grown two-fold in the past two years alone. And what can we attribute to that growth?

The mobile app, of course.

comScore’s research even suggests that the mobile app is the leading digital platform, with consumers spending more time on mobile than any other device. In fact, for retail alone, mobile app share of total digital time spent is about 44 percent today. Smartphone and tablet users now account for 62 percent of digital media usage. Apps, interestingly enough, account for the majority (54 percent) of digital media time.

In its latest released white paper, The 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report, comScore digs deep into how digital audiences use their top devices, breaking down how the figures translate across computers, smartphones and tablets. It also digs into the habits of smartphone users in order to better understand what makes that digital consumer tick.

 Digging Into The Numbers: Digital Media Usage

“Digital media usage time is exploding right now, and it’s predominantly being driven by mobile apps.”

Here is what comScore’s research showed about total digital media usage:

  • 49 Percent | How much digital media usage has grown in two years
  • 90 Percent | Mobile app growth in the past two years
  • 77 Percent | How much apps have contributed to total time spent on mobile
  • 53 Percent | Mobile browser growth over a two-year period

Understanding The Smartphone App Share

“Smartphone apps are eating up the digital universe and are now close to being a majority of all digital media time.”

As comScore’s research shows, smartphone apps are inching in on the gap between mobile sites. What’s interesting in the report is the research that shows consumers are spending more time on smartphone apps — even though they only make up 50 percent of total usage. But they are also rapidly gaining share across virtually every market.

June 2015 figures from comScore show:

  • 82 Percent | Smartphone app share of mobile (a 3-percent increase in two years)
  • 71 Percent | Smartphone app share of mobile (5-percent increase in two years)
  • 44 Percent | Smartphone app share of total digital (11-percent increase in two years)

“Mobile now represents almost 2 out of 3 digital media minutes, and mobile apps alone now constitute a majority.”

Where the stats are showing the biggest surge, of course, and where the mobile momentum is headed, is the share of digital media time spent by platform. Desktop figures are not declining in engagement figures, but comScore’s figures show that it is losing share to mobile (62 percent of total digital media time spent).

  • 62 Percent | Share of digital time spent on mobile (11-percent increase in two years)
  • 54 Percent | Share of digital time spent on mobile app (12-percent increase in two years)
  • 38 Percent | Share of digital time spent on desktop (11-percent decrease in two years)

“App usage time is being driven heavily by millennials on smartphones, while older segments skew on tablet apps.”

Perhaps it’s not all the surprising that millennials are driving up mobile app usage, but what is interesting is that the table use figures by age groups. Tablet app engagement figures are high with millennials, too, but then they do tend to increase with each age bracket.

It’s no wonder why mobile developers are targeting their products toward millennials.

Breaking down how many hours are spent monthly (on average) per app by visitor, by age:

  • All adults | 68.2 hours on mobile | 29.6 hours on tablets
  • 18-24 | 90.6 hours on mobile | 34.7 hours on tablets
  • 25-34 | 82.5 hours on mobile | 23.5 hours on tablets
  • 35-44 | 73.1 hours on mobile | 26.6 hours on tablets
  • 45-54 | 57.5 hours on mobile | 30.8 hours on tablets
  • 55-64 | 40.7 hours on mobile | 34 hours on tablets
  • 65+ | 39.8 hours on mobile | 32.5 hours on tablets

 How Apps Drive Engaged Audiences

“Apps dominate mobile Web in time spent. But these stats only tell part of the story, especially when looking at driving audiences.”

As Google, Samsung and Apple rush to push out their latest and greatest mobile products, there’s also a competition to deliver on one key factor: screen size. As Apple showed in its latest iPad Pro rollout, screen size matters. That’s also apparent in the recent rollouts of phones from each of those companies.

  • 87 Percent vs. 13 Percent | Share of time spent on mobile app vs. browser

When those stats are compared to by smartphone time versus tablet time spent, the numbers are nearly the same.

The Omni-Digital Advantage

“Multi-platform digital audiences are getting much bigger on average, and it’s all because of mobile.”

comScore’s research also analyzes the top 1,000 properties for total digital, mobile and desktop usage, which found that in the past year alone, digital media’s audience size has grown 22 percent among that group. Mobile audiences have grown 41 percent, while desktop audiences have only grown 1 percent.

Average monthly audience unique visitors:

  • Total Digital | 15 million (22 percent YOY increase)
  • Mobile | 9.7 million (41 percent YOY increase)
  • Desktop | 6.8 million (1 percent YOY increase)

Mobile Properties Vs. Mobile App Audience Growth

“Mobile audience growth is being driven more by mobile Web properties, which are actually bigger and growing faster than apps.”

Before there’s too much excitement about the mobile app revolution, the figures also show that mobile Web properties actually are driving up mobile audience growth the most.

  • 42 Percent | YOY growth from mobile Web audience growth
  • 21 percent | YOY growth from mobile app audience growth

 How Mobile Loyalty Boosts Brand Loyalty

“Establishing app audiences is harder, but their real value is in their loyalty. They spend 18x more time on apps than mobile Web visitors.”

Bingo. The real value in Web apps is for payments and commerce providers. More time spent on apps means more money spent (most likely), and more engagement or brand loyalty equals more dollars spent.

According to comScore’s report: “It may be more challenging to build a large audience on apps, but those app users are a very loyal bunch. They spend more than three hours per month on the Top 1,000 apps on average – about 18x greater than what mobile Web visitors spend on their Top 1,000 properties.”

When comparing mobile apps to mobile Web properties, here’s how the numbers shake out:

  • 3.3 million | Monthly users for top 1,000 mobile apps
  • 8.9 million | Monthly users for top 1,000 mobile Web properties
  • 201.8 | Average monthly minutes per visitor on apps
  • 10.9 | Average monthly minutes per visitor on mobile Web

 Push Notifications — Friend Or Foe?

“Smartphone users are as likely to accept push notifications as reject, indicating a need to balance utility with intrusiveness.”

The push notification seems to be all the rage now for payments companies trying to show their users they are engaged and connected. On that same wavelength, retailers and digital merchants have been trying to tread the fine line between being engaging and being obtrusive.

Well, the stats for the push notifications and what consumers think of them aren’t exactly warm and friendly. When asked “how often do you agree to an app’s request to allow push notifications, consumers gave mixed reactions.

  • 9 percent | Never
  • 11 Percent | Always
  • 22 Percent | Often
  • 22 Percent | Rarely
  • 36 Percent | Sometimes

“Push notifications can often be the lifeblood of an app – a crucial method to keep its users actively engaged and from abandoning it over time. But it can also backfire, appear intrusive and ultimately annoy users. Smartphone users are split as to whether they get utility from this feature,” comScore wrote in its report.

How Much Consumers Care About Privacy

“Smartphone users are more comfortable sharing location info than receiving notifications.”locat

Interestingly enough, consumers haven’t seemed to warm up to push notifications, but giving away their location? More consumers say they’re willing to dish out where they are. In fact, 4 in 10 consumers surveyed said they’re comfortable enabling location settings for apps.

  • 42 Percent | Consumers who somewhat or strongly agree that they are comfortable with sharing their locations
  • 31 Percent | Consumers who somewhat or strongly disagree that they are comfortable with sharing their locations

Habit-Forming Commerce

“Habits can be powerful drivers of app usage, particularly when daily behaviors are involved.”

As most mobile commerce reports have shown, getting consumers to buy in to mobile is all about them actually remembering that that mobile option exists. Even in the case of Apple Pay, consumers who do use it say they love it — but then they forget it’s an option, so they end up not using it.

The case for the mobile app can best be told by two retailers that have managed to build brand loyalty via mobile apps that have shown real mobile momentum in the past two years: Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

In the case of these two special use cases, there’s one common thread: loyal customers who have daily coffee addictions.

Starbucks has seen a 100-percent increase in unique visitor trend in a two-year period. And on the Dunkin’ Donuts side, it’s seen an astonishing 456-percent increase in the same two-year time period. While it appears Dunkin’ is doing drastically better, it’s worth noting that Starbucks’ app has been around longer and has had more time to establish customers. Following Starbucks’ massive mobile momentum the past couple years, Dunkin’ followed by introducing its own mobile ordering service.

The Value Of Pushing Mobile While In-Store

“Some leading retailers have experienced recent app success by leveraging their customers’ routines of visiting their stores.”

comScore’s research also underscores the importance of gaining unique visitors through the use of in-store coupons and other saving mechanisms. That brings brand engagement, which brings consumers back into the store and brings consumer spend up.

Three examples provided in the report point toward how major retailers have seen success in just a year’s time, when comparing June 2014 to June 2015 figures.

  • 402 Percent | Walmart’s YOY unique visitor trend increase
  • 259 Percent | Kohl’s YOY unique visitor trend increase
  • 85  Percent | Target’s Cartwheel YOY unique visitor trend increase

Mobile Monetization

“Mobile ads not only work, but they work much better than desktop ads on average – particularly at the bottom of the funnel.”

For retailers and those cranking those mobile ads, mobile monetization is the buzzword of the day. When comparing desktop versus mobile on key factors like brand awareness, favorability, likelihood to recommend, and purchase intent, mobile ads produced a much higher boost than desktop.

According to comScore: “Mobile ads caused point lifts 2-3x greater than ads on desktop across four key brand metrics and performed strongest in bottom funnel metrics, such as intent to buy and likelihood to recommend. Less ad clutter and proximity to point of purchase may be driving better effectiveness.”

And that’s all that really matters for today’s digital retailer: dissecting that consumer path to purchase and using it to implement a better mobile strategy.

“Confluence of factors is driving the huge uptick in app usage time, and apps are overtaking other media in importance. However, it’s also important to recognize the others haven’t gone away and the opportunity lies in multi-platform engagement,” comScore’s report concludes.