Mobile Consumers Use Browsers and Apps Equally – But For Different Reasons

Rachel Gantz Millward BrownWhile it has become typical for industry watchers to declare that the mobile web is suffering at the expense of apps’ success, a report Monday revealed consumers use both at almost equal levels.

The New Mobile Mantra,” from WPP’s research unit, Millward Brown Digital, found that of the 30 most-visited mobile properties, browser and app visitation was almost at parity, with 60.3% of visitors using an app and 59.2% using the mobile web. A majority (61%) of consumers reported accessing their mobile browser at least once a day, averaging just over a half hour (31 minutes) of engagement.

“A lot of what you read in the press is how mobile web is dead and that it’s all about the apps,” said Rachel Eisenberg Gantz, SVP of marketing and client services for Millward Brown Digital. “I don’t think there’s a marketer whose boss isn’t breathing down their neck to make a better app. What we found is that apps are important –they can elevate the consumer experience in a way that’s different than we could see a decade ago – but it’s not the whole picture.”

Eisenberg Gantz added that preference between using the browser or app came down to the “task at hand.” Browsers are the go-to choice earlier in the path to purchase, as consumers research product offerings or compare brands. For example, when seeking a hotel room, 61% used a browser compared to 39% for an app. When shopping for a car, 73% preferred their browser vs. 27% using an app.

But apps become the preferred platform once users have already selected a service provider, such as online banking (73% app vs. 27% browser) and retailers (64% app vs. 36% browser). Ultimately, the browser is where brands should acquire customers, then use the app to engage them and maintain their experience over the long run.

Millward Brown Digital broke out this dynamic in examining the customer path with a hotel brand.

While just 22% mostly used an app when comparing prices across hotels, 29% used mostly apps to book hotels, and 42% said the same of logging into loyalty programs. The same number of users (22%) said they mostly used apps when researching a new wireless plan, while more than triple that percentage (67%) mostly used apps to check existing bank account balances.

One area where app and browser use tended to be equal was in the consumption of news. For these, convenience tended to be the main reason consumers preferred one platform over another.

Of those who preferred apps, 50% said it was because they are “easier to navigate” while 44% said they appreciated the notifications about breaking news. What didn’t come up in the responses was how ad presentation affected users.

“I expected ad blocking to be a bigger part of the rationale for why respondents chose one platform over another, but it wasn’t really talked about,” said Eisenberg Gantz. “It does make me want to do some supplementary research to look into that question specifically.”


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