ADI: Large-Screen Smartphone Browsing On Rise; Wi-Fi Topples Cellular

A CMO Exclusive by Adobe Digital Index :

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Apple’s iPhone has had an undeniable effect on the mobile marketing landscape. The introduction of the first iPhone—one of the very early smartphones—in January 2007 marked the beginning of living in not only a digital world, but in a mobile world, where young and old rely on these devices for almost everything they do.

But.

New information gleaned from Adobe Digital Index’s “2014 U.S. Mobile Benchmark Report” shows that the nature and use of these mobile devices is changing in some unexpected ways. The main trend: ADI sees strong user movement toward larger screen devices—that is, greater than four inches in size—which are driving 30% of smartphone Web traffic, up from just 19% last year. In contrast, Web browsing by smaller screen phones (four inches or less) is down 11%, year-over-year.

This has big implications for Apple. Until the company introduces a larger screen smartphone, its market share will erode, according to ADI. But Apple seems to already know that, for industry talk has it that the company is poised to announce two larger phones, called iPhone 6—one 4.7 inches, and the other 5.5 inches—on Sept. 9.

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Furthermore, according to ADI, tablet growth is flattening, as well, in the wake of these larger phones coming to the market. These “phablets” are actually taking market share from their larger tablet cousins.

“A year ago, tablet browsing surpassed smartphones, and that trajectory was expected to continue,” said Tyler White, an ADI analyst. “Since then, however, browsing growth by these devices has flattened, and we think this is mainly because smartphone screens are getting bigger. Now, instead of buying both a smartphone and a tablet, people are opting for phablets and relying on just this one device—with a larger screen—for all of their browsing.”

These findings, of course, have implications for Apple, White noted. While the iPhone’s success has been perennial since its launch, until the company introduces a larger screen smartphone, Apple’s 41.4 percent market share is in jeopardy, ADI predicted. In fact, a recent article on cnbc.com, by Althea Chang, observed that “the new, upsized iPhone 6 is likely to usher in a new era for Apple this fall, giving the tech giant the boost it’s been needing. … Bigger screens are an especially important update to Apple’s iPhone lineup, both in the United States and in Asia, where there’s a strong market for so-called ‘phablets.’”

ADI’s 2014 U.S. Mobile Benchmark Report is based on aggregate and anonymous data across retail, media, entertainment, financial service, and travel Web sites. Web site traffic trends were extracted via Adobe Analytics data, and mobile app usage patterns were taken from Adobe Mobile Services. The analysis is based on more than 10,000 U.S. Web sites and apps, and 18 billion visits to U.S. consumer-facing Web sites ,in June 2014, and more than 1 trillion visits since 2008. App data is based on 700 million mobile app use sessions.

Wi-Fi Topples Cellular
Another key finding of the report, according White, is that Wi-Fi use is at an inflection point, while cellular connection is on the decline. Smartphone browsing via Wi-Fi, according to ADI, has surpassed 50% of all visits to Web sites, and a whopping 93% of tablet Web browsing now comes through Wi-Fi.

“With the increase in Wi-Fi and the decline in cellular, tablets should now be thought of as portable, rather than mobile, devices,” White explained.

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The reasons behind Wi-Fi’s growth and cellular’s decline, White said, has much to do with mobile carriers charging more for data. The all-you-can eat data plan has just about gone the way of the dodo, so consumers are choosing to browse via Wi-Fi, rather than cellular, on both their phones and tablets.

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Fat-Finger Syndrome
From a mobile-social perspective, it appears that the “fat-finger syndrome” is quite a problem in the mobile world, according to ADI. Bounce rates for referrals from social networks is much higher on mobile devices than it is on desktops (61% vs. 53%).

“We’re also finding that social smartphone users convert less often and, as a result, produce lower revenue per visit, regardless of the social site that referred them,” White said. He added that Facebook referrals produce the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices.

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Pinterest is the most mobile social network, according to the report, with 64% of its referred traffic coming from phones and tablets. More than one-third (36%) of all social referral traffic comes from mobile.

Additionally, users of digital magazine apps use person-to-person article sharing via email and messaging twice as often as sharing to larger groups via social.

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Mobile Apps Get A Share
From a mobile app perspective, ADI found that new methods for content sharing are emerging. According to ADI, iMessage digital publisher sharing is up 259% over the past four quarter, Pinterest sharing is up 131%, and email is up 5.2%. On the other hand, Twitter digital publisher sharing is down 22.6% over the past four quarters, while Facebook sharing is down 42.6%. URL link shares are down 26.8%.

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The takeaway for marketers is simple, White said: “Referrals are a proven method for acquiring new readers, and digital sharing is a great way to track those referrals. Producers need to be tuned in to the modes consumers are using to refer and share their content, and then create solutions that easily tie into those modes.”

Location, Location, Location
ADI also noted that the use of location-based technology is on the rise, too, mostly because marketers are increasingly trying to personalize experiences for consumers. Location-awareness via GPS location data is the most popular method for targeting by location, according to ADI.  

Almost half (49%) of mobile applications rely on GPS to deliver location-aware content. When breaking it down according to a company’s mobile expertise, 57% of “expert” mobile marketers rely on GPS, while just 37% of “less experienced” marketers do so. The good news is that newbies are catching up; about 49% plan to add it in the next 12 months.

In the case of iBeacons, sports media companies such as Major League Baseball have already deployed beacons in their stadiums to “push” relevant content to fans. And companies such as Safeway, American Airlines, and Marriott have announced the deployment of beacons at retail stores, airports, and hotels to drive a location-aware experience for customers.

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Mobile Spending
Finally, according to ADI, it looks as if marketers are beginning to understand the apps vs. mobile Web debate was a no-brainer: Both are needed; it can’t be one without the other.

On average, mobile marketers spend $5.5 million per year on mobile apps and $4.9 million on mobile Web sites. These major investments show that many organizations are no longer treating mobile as an experiment or test, and more view it as a set of channels for engaging and monetizing a customer relationship.

“The average consumer reaches out to a brand across multiple touch points, even in mobile, where they may use a tablet at home and a smartphone on the go,” White said. “To keep up with these multidevice consumers, companies are spreading their investment between apps and mobile Web sites.  Apps are typically used to drive engagement with loyal customers who are willing to download a branded app in exchange for value and utility. In contrast, mobile Web sites can be used to engage with new visitors who have discovered your brand via search, display, video, or social media.”

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