One of my favorite discussions to have with the Millennials at my office revolves around what it was like to be in college without cell phones. They have a very hard time getting their heads around the notion of not being in constant contact with their friends, receiving and sending scores of updates as to their whereabouts and happenings. While they may have had luxury of efficiently planning out their night on the fly, at least we never had to worry about our most embarrassing moments showing up on YouTube and Facebook!
As much as I take pride in having survived such deplorable living conditions, there’s no question that life with mobile devices nets out positively. For every complaint I hear about how impersonal everything seems with everyone’s faces buried in their phones all day, there are hundreds of examples of improved lifestyle due to mobile internet access.
In a macro sense, the best way to define mobile utility is to break down the device adoption trends and usage profiles. The greater the penetration and the greater the time spent directly correlates to how useful mobile internet access is to all of us.
The Multi-Platform Majority: The People and their Devices
The adoption of internet enabled mobile devices has skyrocketed over the past few years, reaching record heights every month with no sign of slowing down. Today, nearly 148 million Americans age 13 and older own smartphones and 72 million own tablets. Although their growth trajectories have been steep, there is still considerable room for growth in both markets before reaching a level of saturation.
Given the rapid increase in adoption of other web-enabled devices, we should perhaps not be surprised to see that the profile of internet usage has also changed dramatically. As we cross tab the mobile device population with the population of desktop internet users, we recognize that an important milestone has recently been reached: more than half of total U.S. digital population now use multiple devices to access the web.
Clearly a tipping point has been reached and the future will only look more “multi-platform” than it is today. Before long, multi-platform users will evolve from being a simple majority to a dominant majority, while an increasing percentage of consumers will access the web from all three leading digital media platforms. This has enormous implications for how content companies orchestrate their strategies to maximize engagement and optimize the consumer experience. It is also changing the way that marketers must approach their ad campaigns and how they think about reaching the right audiences in the right context at the right time.
Apps, Not Mobile Web, Driving the Multi-Platform Majority
Mobile internet usage started out on web browsers, which if you remember was terribly inconvenient during the early era of smartphones. The processing power and speed was not ready for primetime, websites were not optimized for the mobile experience, and for most of us our fingers were too big (and our vision too weak) to get anything done efficiently.
Along came the iPhone in 2007 and this experience began to change as apps became the primary means for accessing web-based content. Today, 85% of overall total time spent on mobile devices takes place within apps, a clear sign that this inherently optimized experience is the preferred pathway to mobile content. Perhaps not surprisingly, a higher percentage of time spent on smartphones comes from apps (89%) than on tablets (80%). Tablets, of course, offer a larger screen which still renders non-mobile optimized web pages legible to the average human eye.
Making the Most of Mobile
As mobile carves out an ever-increasing piece of the digital pie, it’s never been more critical for marketers to understand and align with the direction of consumer behavior. The average web user today accesses the internet on multiple platforms and has different value drivers for each platform and access method. Apps are the primary gateway to the mobile internet, so content providers must ensure they’ve not only invested the resources to provide a seamless user experience but also that they’ve effectively marketed the apps to consumers. If consumers don’t make room for your app on their devices, your ability to engage with them on mobile platforms will be significantly limited.
The multi-platform majority has arrived. Are you ready?