Commentary

Smartphone Consumers: Most Use 1-6 Apps a Day, 61% Access Browser

The app vs. mobile website dilemma continues.

For the longest time, many major retailers have found that their customers prefer mobile websites over their apps, no matter how much better the app is for an interactive experience.

Various studies also regularly pointed to mobile website over app preferences by shoppers.

But it looks like the tide may finally be turning a bit. Or, at least in mariner’s terms, moved into slack tide mode where the tide is neither rising nor falling.

Of visitors to the top 30 mobile brands, 59% of total unique visitors came via browser and 60% visited through an app, based on a new study.

More than half of smartphone users have 40 to 70 apps on their phone, but most (71%) of them use only one to six of them a day, according to the study by Millward Brown Digital.

The study comprised two data sources, combining a survey of 2,000 adult smartphone owners in the U.S. with behavioral data from the Millward Brown mobile clickstream panel, which tracks every app and website the panelists visited.

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The majority (61%) of smartphone users access their browser at least once a day, spending an average of 31 minutes in total. There’s little risk to retailers there because, unlike apps, no one is going to delete a browser.

It also appears that apps need to be functional or they will be deleted, since the top reason smartphone owners delete an app is because they aren’t using it much. Interestingly, some consumers also delete an app because they find themselves using it too much.

Here’s why consumers delete apps:

  • 72% -- Rarely used the app
  • 51% -- Need to free memory on phone
  • 44% -- Found the app was draining phone battery
  • 40% -- Found better apps to replace them
  • 39% -- App had too many technical issues
  • 34% -- App was sending too many ads or alerts
  • 32% -- App wasn’t easy to use
  • 8% -- Spending too much time using the app

Another app tidbit is that 41% of smartphone owners have apps on their phones that they don’t use.

But app and mobile website usage is dependent on what consumers are looking to do.

For example, app activity dominates in online banking, retail and wireless while browsers lead in auto, hotel and consumer electronics.

In yet another indicator of a split market for mobile shopping, the top reason for using apps is that having a user name saved makes it easier to log in, say 43% of smartphone owners, while 37% use browsers because they can browse different sites without downloading an app.

Smartphone owners also tend to move back and forth between browsers and apps.

For example, when comparison shopping across hotels, the majority (51%) mostly uses a browser but for hotel booking, most (57%) use either an app or app and browser equally.

Once logged into the loyalty program, the market is pretty evenly split with 42% using mostly the app and 41% mostly a mobile browser.

Not surprisingly, for mobile banking 70% of smartphone owners do it mostly through an app.

Any retailer looking for a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile commerce will have to keep looking. Or wait.

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