Users Want a Seamless and Convenient Web Experience

With almost religious passion, mobile industry players still debate whether mobile apps or the mobile Web is the better way for marketers and publishers to reach consumers. But smartphone users, as it turns out, are completely agnostic.

Mobile app advocates declared “victory” last year after a ComScore survey showed that users spend 88 percent of their mobile time in the app environment. But IAB knew there had to be more to the story than that. In December 2014, it commissioned Harris Poll to survey more than 2,000 U.S. adults online on their views on mobile websites and apps, and how they find and share apps and websites that they access on their smartphones. (This does not include tablet usage.)

The results of this survey show a much more nuanced picture of such usage. Not only did users’ perceptions vary widely from the ComScore results – with most reporting equal usage of app and Web especially for shopping, news, and directories. But it turned out that many people were actually using apps as a backdoor to access the mobile Web. So “in app” time was actually time spent on the mobile Web.

Some 52 percent of smartphone owners, for example, said they sometimes use links in mobile apps to lead them to articles of interest. The apps they use to access these articles included social media apps, news aggregators, and recommendation and review apps.

The top reasons these users said they valued app-sourced articles was because they learned new things (50 percent), read things they otherwise would not have discovered (39 percent), or because they helped them discover publications or websites they didn’t already know about (26 percent).

The mobile Web, however, was shown to be the top preference for those conducting a search on a specific topic or publication, drawing more than half of the mobile Internet users polled. Another 29 percent of mobile Internet users said they discovered mobile websites via word-of-mouth, and 26 percent cited links in social media that led them to seek out mobile websites.

Also interesting is that, among those who said they prefer apps, the top reasons were because they found apps more convenient (64 percent) or easier to use than the mobile Web (62 percent). But when you asked the same thing of those who preferred mobile Web, they said nearly the same thing. About 42 percent of those said using a browser is easier than using apps, and 49 percent said they didn’t want to pay for apps.

Users clearly want convenience and ease of use. What they need is a seamless, utility-based journey that lets them browse around, moving in and out of different destinations, whether app or Web, letting them shop, gather news, inform themselves, and find entertainment.

As we see from the IAB/Harris Poll study, mobile is changing the way customers find content, articles, publishers, and writers that they like. Understanding the journey they take to get to mobile content is critical. As consumers bypass publishers’ mobile “home pages” and go straight to articles or pages of interest, for example, it is critical to design content and ad strategies that account for that reality.

App and Web are and should continue to become more complementary to one another, each doing what it does best. So let’s not build silos that keep them apart. As marketers, we need to think holistically about mobile usage and keep the complexity behind the curtain. Both marketers and publishers should include both apps and mobile Web in their media plans to maximize their chances of reaching consumers and achieve their branding and financial goals.

Face it, users just don’t care about the app versus Web war and neither should we. So, can’t we just all get along?

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