There are now over 1 million smartphone and tablet applications available in the various online stores. According to a recent study by the E-tailing Group, phone and tablet users spend 82 percent of their mobile minutes with applications, and just 18 percent with web browsers. The average person has 40 apps downloaded, and regularly uses 15.
Since mobile usage continues to skyrocket, it’s clear that if you want to grab the attention of small screen users, you have to do so through an app, not (just) a mobile website. Savvy content developers, however, have discovered that engaging applications can often drive higher traffic numbers via the web to sites of all classifications. The same is true for critical inclusion inside the most heavily used aggregation apps. So if you want to increase traffic and revenues on your ecommerce site, blog, or other web space, engaging with mobile users is a critical strategy.
If your business has yet to jump into the world of apps, you have a couple of considerations to ponder before development. Answers to these questions will help you determine if a native app is required, and if so what platform, as well as the choice to just be included inside the biggest apps in the biz.
Know your audience – A deep and detailed understanding of who your target audience truly is remains critical to success in all arenas. If your metrics show you attract a different audience than you intend, don’t be afraid to be organic and shift perspectives, or to broaden your horizons. Our instincts about who will be best served by the products we offer aren’t always spot-on. Trust the data, and act accordingly.
Know what makes a great application in your space – Before you dive into application production, study the market to see what exists in your niche, and find what’s working and what’s not. Don’t duplicate the efforts of a competitor; make sure what you offer is both filling a need and unique to the space. Since users engage regularly with just 15 apps, you don’t have the luxury of repeating what’s been done. It may be that you decide to be included inside the likes of eBay, CraigsList, Yelp, and other big names. Don’t assume you have to reinvent the wheel to be successful.
Types of Applications
Smartphone and tablet applications fit 5 distinct categories, and not all may be appropriate for your business.
The categories are:
1) Games – It’s no secret that people love to play games. The gamification of the app world has taken every day activities like eating out and running errands and made them competitive (thank you, FourSquare). 42 percent of time spent on mobile devices involves playing games.
2) Social Networks – Facebook is the obvious example, and apps like these take up 31 percent of smartphone users’ attention and time. It’s not wise to take on the creation of a new social networking app, unless that’s already your core business, but you can use the Facebook addiction to your advantage. Facebook has made mobile advertising its top priority now, with targeted ad buys appearing in user feeds, making this a great marketing option to reach the mobile audience.
3) Information Discovery – Big names like Yelp, CraigsList, and TripAdvisor get very high traffic on their apps, which people use to access the next film, restaurant, concert, activity, or vendor they’ll partake in. If your business relates in any way to the content these discovery apps offer, you should petition each app/site to also be included.
4) Utilities – Considered the primary way people interact with their phones and tablets, utility apps include things like email, calendars, maps, cameras, and clocks.
5) Branded Applications – Major brands like Burger King and Nike have a myriad of app choices with heavy branding. These are normally less popular than more ubiquitous options, but when they go viral, it’s a huge windfall.
iPhone Versus Android
All mobile users are not created equal. Per a new report from the Arbitron Mobile US Smartphone Panel, iPhone users engage with apps 54 percent more than their Android counterparts. iPhone users additionally spend 20 percent more time with apps (an average of 105.3 minutes per month, versus 87.6 for Androids), and shop 19 percent more too. If you’re going native, iPhone still reigns supreme.
The Most Popular Apps
The app that boasts the highest traffic is eBay, used by 14.3 percent of US smartphone owners. Amazon Mobile is second, followed by Groupon, Passbook, and CraigsList. These are your top five aggregators if you’re after a mobile audience. If, for example, you own an online business, you should absolutely be selling some of your products on eBay, if only to expand your horizons and find new customers.
While more users access web domains than application counterparts, they spend far more time interacting with app content. The top ranking mobile domain is Amazon, accessed by 34.7 percent of users. Their corresponding application has only a third of that traffic, but users spend twice as much time (19.8 minutes versus 40.) Since engagement offers the keys to the kingdom in online revenues, applications clearly offer more revenue boosting opportunities than their web domain counterparts.
The conclusion is clear: If you’re not playing in the mobile space, you’re missing the boat. Whether you determine your business would most benefit from creating their own app, or you garner inclusion in the world’s biggest discovery apps, you need to have phone and tablet users engaging with your brand. Apps are available everywhere these days; from the Apple Store and Google Play to Windows 8, Facebook, and beyond. Mobile isn’t just the wave of the future, it’s the platform of today.
About the author: Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.