June 14, 2017

The Importance of Mobile and Multi-Platform Measurement in India

Kedar Gavane
Vice President, India

As with the majority of global markets, the number of users accessing the internet via desktop devices has remained relatively static in India in the last couple of years, but to take this as a sign of stagnation within the digital industry would of course be ignoring the growth of mobile devices within this timeframe. Smartphone and tablet devices have created new digital access points for consumers, but without cannibalising desktop consumption to any enormous effect. Mobile devices have created new digital time, and with it, more opportunities to reach digital consumers throughout their day.

What can global markets teach us about India’s expectations from this new multi-platform reality?

The Mobile Explosion

Mobile audiences now almost match desktop ones in almost every market measured by comScore, and in some cases even surpass them. In the US, just under 195.6m users access the internet on these handheld platforms in a month, compared to just under 232m on desktop. And whilst the audiences demonstrate growing importance of accurately measuring these platforms, the duration of engagement suggests this need is paramount. Smartphone and tablet devices account for 68 percent of all digital time in the US, and similar proportions in other major markets such as the UK (61 percent), Canada (63 percent) and Brazil (71 percent).

Clearly the shift to mobile has been on a major scale, and whilst relatively ubiquitous, it is important to understand that it has not been entirely even. As one might expect, younger generations typically embrace these newer platforms in greater numbers and for more time overall, although on a per-user basis, it is not always such a bland and white distinction. In Canada, for example, over 45–55 year olds actually spend 10 percent more minutes per user on mobile devices than 35–44s, and only 7 percent fewer minutes than the most mobile-engaged 18–34 demographic.

Some sectors have benefitted a disproportionately large amount from new digital time and audiences created by these platforms. Mobile devices add 11 percent more users to the (desktop) internet as a whole in the US, but 91 percent to even the broad-reaching newspapers category. For more heavily mobile-focused categories, this can be even higher, such as weather (243 percent), and maps (178 percent).

Time to Leave Desktop Behind?

Despite these noteworthy figures, it would be a mistake to conclude that all resources and attention should be diverted to mobile. Desktop continues to draw large audiences, and whilst its share of digital time may have diminished, it is a smaller share of a generally larger pie – in absolute terms, desktop time has not declined as significantly as the above figures might suggest. In India, total desktop minutes have actually grown 4 percent between November 2014 and November 2016.

So the true objective is not simply measurement of mobile devices, but understanding both audiences and consumption on smartphones and tablets within the context of the entire digital landscape. In doing so, we can uncover subtleties that have enormous implications for all sides of the ecosystem.

Why Multi-Platform Measurement Matters

In a world in which consumers are treated less as homogenous masses, and segmented into even more refined audiences, it is appropriate that businesses of all varieties go to greater lengths to understand nuances in behaviours and preferences by the most refined set of variables, including device usage beyond the simple umbrella of ‘all digital’.

It is also important that we can garner insights in a person-centric manner. Put simply, with the increasing proliferation of devices, it is now vital to distinguish between a single user on desktop, smartphone or tablet, and individual users using one device each. Failing to do so has far-reaching effects on virtually any metric that a company might use to evaluate success.

Multi-platform measurement that combines cookie data with user panels offers the most illuminating view of the digital landscape. Understanding how audiences on desktop, smartphone and tablet devices overlap and differ provides a holistic view of digital behaviour, while the additional layer of insight provided by device-specific observations is crucial to optimise offerings in the right places, at the right times and for the correct target audiences.

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