Mobile-First? Mobile-Only? Or Simply Screen-Optimized

The latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices. I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

How to Improve the Mobile Shopping Experience for CustomersThe latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices.

I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

Since 2013, total digital media usage is up 40 percent — all of it driven by mobile. Smartphone usage is up 99 percent – that’s double since 2013. Tablet use is up 26 percent since 2013, while desktop has declined by 8 percent. I can match the 40 percent time growth in digital easily enough, but I’m still in love with my Lenovo ThinkPad. As a writer and communicator, I just can’t let go of my keypad and (relatively) big screen. My tablet even has a perfectly operational Bluetooth keypad.

I’m sure a generation (or two) ago, it was tough for writers to swap out their typewriters for “word processors.” But look around … times they are a-changing.

You can guess age has something to do with it.

Mobile now represents seven in 10 digital minutes. Dig deeper: 22 percent of 18 to 24 year-old women, and 16 percent of 18 to 24 year-old men are “mobile only.” (Echo Chamber: I’m guessing most mobile-only’s are not white-collar workers with computers in home and office work stations. I can’t think of any of my professional colleagues who do not interact with a PC or laptop.) On the other side, 19 percent of the U.S. market has no smartphone penetration at all — with age 55+ smartphone penetration at just 61 percent.

While mobile platforms definitely prevent a complete divide between digital have’s (those with PCs/laptops + mobile) and have-not’s (those who do not, without even a smartphone), in my mind, there is still not “information” equality between digital and mobile. Do we consume information equally in depth, in time, in audio, in video, in copy length — from one size screen to another? Can attention be held adequately? Can copy be as easily read? Content cannot and should not be packaged the same for both platforms, IMHO. (If it weren’t for mobile, I would have typed out “in my humble opinion.”)

Consider these other effects:

  • Desktop Audiences Amplified: Mobile is a desktop extender – the top 100 digital properties have increased their mobile audiences over their desktop equivalents by a factor of 2.4. This multiple is growing, and probably not coincidentally, most smartphone screens now have 4.5-inch or larger displays — which has flattened the growth of tablets.
  • Wall Strength: Huge growth is happening in time spent inside mobile applications: led by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Gmail and Google Play. Snapchat, Pandora and Amazon are the largest apps outside the “walled gardens.” Snapchat usage grew by 114 percent.
  • Apps are Changing Behaviors: Apps are changing consumer behavior permanently – from ordering rides, to paying friends, to making dates – by the tens of millions. And some apps are “flash” – Pokémon GO has one-fifth the active user base that it had last July.
  • Millennials are Smart … Phoned: Smartphone penetration among Millennials (ages 18 to 34) is at its saturation point — currently 94 percent. With the big rise in Snapchat, they still spend most their social app time on Facebook, with equal time in Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat app penetration among Millennials is 60 percent, compared to 95 percent for that of Facebook.
  • Time Spent Digitally: This might also help to explain why the three top digital time uses are social media (20 percent of total digital time), multimedia (14 percent) and entertainment/music (11 percent). One has to go all the way down to 3 percent equally for news and information, email, and search. Mobile is primarily a connection and entertainment vehicle for us. Information-on-demand is hugely important. However, we get it and then get off it.
  • Video: YouTube is the big online video winner and 70 percent of watch-time is on mobile devices, versus 30 percent in desktop. While mobile minutes and monthly videos watched per viewer are dominated by mobile, desktop still gets (just) an edge in average minutes watched per video … 4.7 minutes on desktop average minutes to 3.7 minutes on mobile. Perhaps as display screens expand, and headphones abound, video is becoming just as captivating on either screen.

There’s more to report in this study, including some concerning effects regarding advertising. But like the previous blog post — the perfect mobile ad — we need to be screen-optimizing our content. We also need to plot the customer journey in mobile, and depending on the target audience, place that mobile customer journey first in mind.

Author: Chet Dalzell

Marketing Sustainably: A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing. Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated marketing. He serves on the ANA International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too! 

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