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Increased Mobile App Use: What Your Brand Needs to Know about Apps

3 minute read | Randall Beard, Global Head, Advertiser Solutions | September 2014

Take out your smartphone—now. Count your apps. How many do you have? How many do you actually use? In an increasingly appified world, that distinction is critical to brand marketers wondering if they should jump into the fray.

It seems like only yesterday when Apple began advertising “there’s an app for that” and ushered in an avalanche of new apps for just about anything and everything. Brands noticed too. Many brand managers and CMOs found themselves asking: “what does this mean for my brand?” and, more importantly, “does my brand need an app?” to better connect with or engage consumers.

App Usage – More Usage, But Not More Apps Used

Nielsen recently took a hard look at app usage to better understand how consumers use them. Here are some key findings:

  • American adults spent 30 hours 15 minutes per month on apps in Q4 2013. That’s up +65 percent from just two years ago. People are spending a lot more time with apps.
  • However, the number of apps used has remained relatively flat (26.8 apps used per month in Q4 2013 vs. 26.5 apps a year ago).

We’ve Seen This Before

Does this trend of channel overload sound familiar? I see a clear parallel to TV, where even as the number of channels and average hours of consumption have increased over time, the average number of channels watched has stayed close to flat—17, if you’re interested. We’re seeing the same thing in app usage—more overall time spent on apps, but not many more apps being used.

Now, ask yourself a really hard question: “how likely, really, is it that consumers would use an app from my brand as one of the 27 apps they use each month?” The answer depends a lot on what kind of brand you have.

The data shows that over 80 percent of time on apps is in three categories:

  1. Search, portals and social;
  2. Entertainment; and
  3. Communication.

So, if you’re Google or Facebook or CBS Sports or Snapchat, all looks good. Consumers are clearly spending more time per app—allowing for more immersive experiences for content and advertising within their chosen channels.

If you’re an average brand manager, you really have to think twice about what this means for your brand.

What Does App Usage Mean For Your Brand?

I think it means two things:

  1. Apps are Advertising Opportunities – Most of the biggest apps are also advertising platforms, and their reach can be very broad. And importantly, mobile advertising audiences are now measurable just like TV and online browser-based advertising. Marketers have been asking for cross-platform comparability for years, and now they have it: daily measurement of reach, frequency, gross rating points (GRPs) and audience delivery have come to mobile.
  2. Brand Apps are Products and Services – If you choose to make the jump to creating your own brand app, treat it like a product or service of your brand. It needs to meet an important unmet need; it needs to be designed to be different and better than the alternatives; the user experience has to be great; and you need to market it to gain trial and penetration just as you would with any new line extension or flanker. To put it bluntly, it’s a lot of work to get it right.

Should Your Brand Have an App?

Apps are here to stay—the explosive growth proves it. I just checked my smartphone. I have almost 80 apps. That’s a bit more than 3x the average consumer. And you know what? Most of them are search, social, portals, entertainment and communication—and almost all are advertising opportunities for your brand. So, use consumers’ increasing love affair with apps to your advantage—by advertising on them.

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