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Understanding the impact of mobile multitasking

March 22, 2017 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

The mobile device is the command center for the hyper-connected consumer. Increasingly, it provides the point of access to the Internet of Things (loT). Today’s publishers and brands need to understand cross-device usage and identify the best pathway to attract and engage the hyper-connected consumer. In order to identify the appropriate channels and marketing opportunities, Verto Analytics analyzed cross-device usage in their research report, “Multitasking and Mobile Apps: New Ways to Measure Consumer Behavior.”

It’s no surprise that mobile device usage is on the rise. On average, American adults own five devices, such as PCs, smartphones, tablets, and wearables. In Q4 2016, PC usage totaled an average of 104 minutes per day. That’s slightly less than consumer’s total mobile device usage, which averaged 75 minutes per day on smartphones and 39 minutes per day on tablets (totaling 114 minutes per day).

Mobile apps also drive usage and far exceed mobile web usage. In fact, consumers spent 6.9 billion hours on mobile apps compared to 1.2 billion hours of mobile web usage in December 2016.

Mobile App Usage

Overall, consumers have an average of 89 apps installed on their smartphones and use approximately 25 each week and only eight per day. Fewer than 10% of all apps installed on a smartphone are used daily.

Device sessions:

  • 56% of all device sessions are still single-app sessions.
  • 19% show at least three distinct apps being used in a single session.
  • 9% show at least four distinct apps being used in a single session.
  • 5 to 4% of all smartphone sessions are multitasking sessions.

Multitasking Sessions

Verto Analytics defines a multitasking session as using at least four different apps and at least seven differ shifts (movement from app to app).

Consumers are using multiple apps to engage with the external world. External environment apps allow consumers to interact with their environments. This category of apps includes fitness tracking apps, connected home and personal assistant apps, and streaming media apps combined with hardware.

Personal assistant apps (i.e. Amazon’s Alexa) currently make up only 4% of all usage. Verto Analytics predicts these apps will increasingly be incorporated into consumer’s multitasking behavior.

As one would imagine, social media services and messaging apps (such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp) are most likely to be a part of a consumer’s multitasking behavior.

Multitasking Likelihood

Interestingly, the report found that the list of apps with the highest total number of returns does not necessarily correlate with the list of apps with the highest return rates (total number of people returning to the same app). The return rate is an important metric. It’s the ratio of multitasking sessions when a given app experiences a return against the total number of sessions of that app within a given time frame.

For example, if a consumer uses the Waze app once a day every day for a month (30 days) and on five of the those occasions, there is multitasking session (the consumer leaves and returns to Waze during the same session), the return rate for Waze is 18% (5/30). Waze, in this instance, had an 18% tendency to attract consumers back to the app during a multitasking session. What we learn from this is that the plays a central-role in a consumer’s session because it is actively used with other apps. Learning about how consumers actively use apps with other apps, often referred to as a smart hub, plays a key role in chart the consumer pathways to best target for frequent interaction and engagement.

Understanding multitasking, the best rate of return, and smart hubs offers insight into important mobile touchpoints. Brands and publishers need to identify and understand these points of interaction and their relationships to drive usage grown, engagement and monetization.

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