Commentary

Social Apps With New Content Achieve Higher Unlock Phone Engagements

Mobile marketers and media companies put a lot of stock in push notifications.

Yet, when consumers unlock their phones, push notifications rarely initiate content discovery.

That’s according to a new Verto Analytics report. It found -- in the context of a user’s daily unlocks -- less than 2% of all device unlocks involve consumers engaging with notifications from news apps, magazine apps, and entertainment apps.

By contrast, Facebook and other social apps that feature feeds of new content fare much better upon being relaunched at unlock. All told, about 16% of Facebook’s usage comes from it being the app that is relaunched at unlock.

More broadly, messaging and social each apps create more than 100 unlock engagement opportunities a month, per user, Verto Analytics found.

By contrast, browsers are relaunched at unlock about 50 times a month, while Web browsers rank 8 out of 10 among app categories relaunched by unlocking the device.

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While, social and messaging apps most commonly command users’ attention immediately after unlocking their phones, there are some notable exceptions.

For example, Metro by T-Mobile’s MetroZONE and SmartNews actually perform better at unlock than Facebook, WhatsApp or Snapchat.

“Consumers unlock their devices almost 50 times a day, and because smartphones typically launch the app most recently used, it is very important to understand the beginning of the mobile unlock journey and how those apps can recapture user attention effectively,” Vinayak Nair, vice president, custom research and analytics at Verto Analytics, notes in the report.

To understand which apps tend to recapture and engage consumer attention from the start of the mobile journey, Verto Analytics measured Unlock Launch Rate -- how often an app is launched because it was the last app running when the phone was locked or because the user interface otherwise set to be activated after unlock.

Verto also measured Unlock Engagement Ratio -- the ratio comparing how often an app gets used for more than 10 seconds to how often it’s used for less than three seconds, when it’s the first app used after unlock.

For smartphones, the Unlock Engagement Ratio is a little over five, excluding the home screen.

Some app categories, such as sports and games, have a higher Unlock Engagement Ratio of between 11-12, indicating they are more likely to hold a user’s attention when given the opportunity at unlock.

Also of note, the report revealed significant differences across age groups when it comes to consumer behavior on smartphones. Verto’s data showed that among U.S. adults, post-millennials unlock their smartphones an average of 79 times per day -- the most often of any other age group.

This number dropped with every successive older age group. In comparison, baby boomers only unlock their smartphones an average of 30 times per day, which is less than half as often as post-millennials/Gen Z.
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