Apps Dominate Users’ Digital Time — But Is Interest In New Apps Falling?

Smartphone apps are still the way most consumers access digital content and information, but as the mobile marketplace matures and other avenues of interactivity emerge (e.g., voice-activation) new entrants into the app landscape may face greater challenges when it comes to grabbing attention.

That’s the view from audience measurement company comScore’s 2017 Mobile App Report, which outlines the levels of app engagement across 57 pages of charts.

If you’ve ever looked at your smartphone and thought about how many of those various apps you actually use, the report’s main findings are not very surprising. But it does provide a good deal of clarity by quantifying how consumers are using apps — and the degrees of how they’re not.

For example, the big takeaway from the comScore report is that a slight majority users (51 percent) do not download any apps in a month. Meanwhile, 66 percent of users do not download any paid-apps in a given month, comScore found, suggesting more difficulty for developers who want to rely less on ad support.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

App Overload

Mobile apps account for 57 percent of all digital media usage, and smartphone apps alone capture more than half of digital media time spent, comScore notes. The disconnect is that since apps are the avenue by which media brands, developers, and places reach consumers directly.

But just as there are only so many TV channels and programs viewers can watch, there are only so many notifications and glances mobile users can afford to devote to their apps.

As for the that 57 percent activity figure for mobile app usage, the breakdown shows has 50 percent devoted to smartphone apps, while just 7 percent accounts for tablet app use. In addition, desktop comprises for 34 percent of time with mobile web 9 percent.

But all hope isn’t lost for app developers, at least if future consumers continue their patterns. Not only are younger users skewing the curve on mobile-apps time spent (those 18-24 are spending 3 hours a day in apps, vs. 2.6 hours for 25-34, and 2.3 hours for 35-44), they’re the ones who are downloading new apps. Of those 18-34, 70 percent say they’re always looking for new apps and they’re willing to pay for them.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

Age-Old App Usage Issues

Millennials’ app usage is particularly relevant, since they represent mobile natives that have grown up in the decade since the iPhone introduced smartphone apps. These younger consumers still have a lot of excitement for new apps, suggesting that there is still room for many new apps to experience growth.

It’s older smartphone users who do not match Millennials’ level of interest in app usage. It’s likely that they might catch up as mobility and apps becomes a more completely ingrained in the digital experience for everything from online and in-store payments to accessing financial services to shared mobility and driving.

In any case, comScore’s report does contain some interesting factoids that highlights the difference between generations. Make of this example what you will: 55+ year-olds are 5x as likely as 18-34 year-olds to only operate their smartphone with two hands.

Millennials, on the other hand (pun intended), are more likely to position apps on their phones based on “thumb reach” and are increasingly “considering this dynamic.”

In general, Millennials are more likely to engage in curation of apps by location and accessibility on their home screens, comScore finds.

“While they love social and entertainment apps, they are also extremely reliant on more functional apps,” comScore says. “They can’t live without their apps, but also show signs of app fatigue.”

The Future Of App Usage

For all the talk about Google’s attempts to build up the concept of the Physical Web, where the browser takes the place of apps in anticipating users’ needs and connecting them with the resources they want, such as a restaurant reservation or a ride-hail, apps are looking more important thank ever.

“I believe that when we think about apps, the way we consume and promote apps today, will not remain the way it happens in the future,” The LBMA’s founder and President Asif Khan told us last fall. “I believe that there’s a future where apps will still exist, but the apps will be temporal, and that the delivery of the app, the promotion of the app, will be based on the physical presence type of idea.

“Once the ‘Internet of Things world’ really takes hold, and everything becomes smart and interconnected, we’ll see buildings ‘talk’ directly to the phone. And the phone can talk to the car. And the car can talk to the building and that ‘conversation’ can connect to the billboards and everything else around the user and their devices.”

 

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How VR And Mobility Are Influencing Ford’s Marketing

When the Ford Motor Company made the leap into Virtual Reality in August 2016, its goals were firm and clear: this was not an experiment. It would not be a one-time ad campaign designed to “generate buzz” and then disappear. And Ford’s VR experience would not be housed on another company’s platform.

Ford, along with its dedicated agency, GTB, partnered with integrated production company Tool of North America, to create what they say is the “auto industry’s first dedicated branded VR app and recurring content series.”

“It wasn’t about selling vehicles,” said Lisa Schoder, Integrated Marketing & Media Lead at Ford, during a panel session with the company’s VR allies at the IAB Mobile Symposium. “This was more about building the brand. This was about telling Ford’s story of innovation in our products and engineering development.”

GTB’s Christian Colasuonno, Ford’s Lisa Schoder, and Tool’s Dustin Callif at the IAB Mobile Symposium

VR: It’s Where The Customers Are Going

The deep dive into VR reflects Ford’s recognition of where potential customers are consuming content. Plus, it reflects the desire to move to a mobile-first strategy,” Schoder said.

“The VR app made sense for us as a way to pursue original storytelling through  in a thoughtful way,” she said. “We avoided thinking of this as a ‘one and done.’ This was about building a new channel for us to distribute content on.”

The first piece of featured VR content during the launch was the story behind the Ford GT’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 50 years after the car’s original victory. The underlying message of the content was to showcase “the power and efficiency in Ford’s EcoBoost engine” as well.

“On top of sharing virtual reality stories about our innovative products, we are also looking to bring mobility issues to the forefront,” Schoder said at the time of the launch. “As we expand our business to be both an auto and a mobility company, we are pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility.”

From the final installment of the Gymkhana NINE virtual reality and 360-degree video series.

Initial Results Are Strong

The idea for focusing on VR as a branding tool had been “kicking around  the agency for a while,” said Christian Colasuonno, director of Digital Production at GTB.

For example, at another IAB conference last year,  MINI USA’s Lee Nadler showcased that car company’s use of VR as well. The  main goal was not just to share arresting visuals. He wanted to demonstrate that, even though “VR isn’t mass yet,” the ability of immersive, 3D visuals are able to lift brand favorability by 11 percent after generating 4.2 million views.

For Ford, the initial results of its VR efforts were even stronger. The VR experience for Ford’s participation in Gymkhana, the Australian and New Zealand motorsport race, last October drew over 17 million-plus views, as well as drew widespread coverage from media outlets both general and automotive-focused.

During the IAB presentation, Dustin Callif, Tool’s managing partner, noted that Schoder started her career on the engineering side and then moved to marketing.

“The story we’re telling is how that reputation for performance can be stepped up into something larger for the brand,”Callif said before turning to Schoder. “Is [this use of VR and mobile] analogous to the relationship between the auto-enthusiast books and the mainstream advertising were back 20 years ago? Is this an advanced version of that?”

“Maybe,” Schoder responded. “At least in the way we approached it, if we were saying we wanted to deliver stories with the Ford brand onstage, those key moments are in our performance portfolio. And we also knew that when we dug into the audience insights with our performance fanbase, we knew they were largely into tech and identify as early adopters. Now, we’re looking to go beyond performance to see what other stories we can tell to a broader audience.”

Smart Mobility And Connected Cars

Following the panel, we caught up with Schoder and asked her about other emerging channels that can offer both a branding experience as well as drive performance to local dealers.

While the IAB panel discussion was about the role of Ford’s VR app as a branding and content distribution tool, does Schoder see VR as something that can work at the local dealership level to create an omnichannel experience intended to drive sales?

It certainly could be,” Schoder told GeoMarketing. “This particular app was initiated to build brand stories. We’re also looking at VR within the shopping experience. It could provide education about new features, for example, ‘How do you experience the all-new Expedition from the inside-out?’ That is certainly a part of how we might approach the overall use of the VR technology.”

Aside from VR, Ford is also exploring ways of using voice-activated, artificial intelligence-powered digital assistants like Alexa or Siri or Okay Google as part of a wider smart mobility strategy, she noted.

“We want to understand how to work with Amazon on Alexa, so that if someone asks a question about one of our cars, they can have the right answer, the best answer for them,” Schoder said. “We are already working with Amazon on our connected vehicles and see how Alexa fits into what we’re doing and what our customers want. For example, it would be exciting for someone to say, ‘Hey Alexa, start my car.’ The car is a piece of the Internet of Things ecosystem and we want to explore all of it.”

 

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