Mobile is Our “Cure for Boredom.” What Does That Mean for Marketers?

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For many of us, reaching over to a nightstand and opening our phones is the first activity of the day. We don’t stop there, either, continuing to unlock our phones when standing in line for a sandwich, procrastinating from work, or answering a message. Much of the time, we open our phones without an intended action or keep them open even after we’ve concluded an action, and that is where mobile app marketers come in.

A recent survey by mobile app ad firm Digital Turbine found that more than a quarter of consumers open their phones more than 75% of the time without a specific app in mind. Digital Turbine EVP Matt Tubergen checked in with Street Fight to share how mobile app marketers can reach mobile users and the discovery tools those people are seeking.

Digital Turbine recently conducted a survey on mobile app usage. Can you tell me how the survey was conducted and what you found?

The mobile usage study was conducted by a third-party research group, Phoenix Marketing International. PMI conducted an online survey of 1,000 Android users to talk about mobile habits and preferences around apps and content. The data showed that unlimited data plans have turned phones into our favorite cure for boredom — we are increasingly turning to them without an app in mind (appnostic behavior). We took a look at what this trend, and others, might mean for device manufacturers and app publishers.

Two of three consumers want better mobile content discovery. What does that mean? What tools and services are consumers looking for, and why? 

The smartphone has been around for over 12 years. As mentioned above, our mobile current discovery has evolved, but we still have to install, tap, and swipe through the same experiences. Like in all industries, consumers are looking for less friction. While consumers aren’t UX designers, they uniformly express interest in interfaces that provide what they want without complicated finger foxtrots. It’s all about convenience, ease, and control.

Consumers are dissatisfied with push notifications. Why, and what data show this?

For starters, it’s not necessarily “dissatisfaction.” It’s that people are open to new ways to discover apps and content — with only 32% of people ranking push notifications first when given four alternatives.

The increase of app and content choices has also increased the number of notifications consumers get. Our phones don’t prioritize them for us, instead sending them to us “last in, first out.” This means that publishers are trying to find the perfect balance between too many (annoying) and too few (not seen).

Bad actors end up getting more concerned with metrics instead of providing value to the user. Alternative options that recommend media or make apps and content readily available in convenient places have a better chance of breaking through the noise.

Consumers often open their phones without a specific app in mind. What are the numbers on this, and what does it mean for app publishers?

The number is 49%, up from 37% just two years ago. Thanks to unlimited data plans, people are opening up their phones to be informed, entertained, or for a laugh. We end up getting locked into the same mobile habits.

In fact, our home screens have a heavy influence on our usage — our likelihood of engagement depends on where an app sits on the phone. These habits are hard for advertisers to break. Habit changes can occur through life events, like marriages, new jobs, or having a child. Those that have these life changes install 2.5x more apps. Otherwise, app discovery relies on breaking through to the user via advertising. Publishers often get lost if they stick to the app store and social ads. 

How do app publishers achieve enduring connections with mobile users when mobile screens are already flooded with apps? How do non-major apps compete with attention grabbers like the big social apps?

You can’t get loyalty without usage, and you can’t get usage without being discovered. With today’s media choice overload, creating enduring connections involves thinking outside the box.

App developers should seek partnerships to build discovery and usage. Consider Spotify — they were able to beat Pandora primarily through their Facebook connection. That connection gave them a larger reach well beyond what traditional advertising and the app store would provide.

Consider the whole ecosystem that can help get you a “sticky” factor. Facebook ends up getting used because it’s pre-loaded on most devices, and the smartphone’s LIFO logic skews to it — the last app used is the first app seen. Partnering with carriers, OEMs, or other entities that put you on the device or help integrate you with other popular apps can put you in a bigger league than the competition.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]