Applications do not exist outside mobile devices, therefore as mobile continues its world domination, so too does app development and usage. Mobile app downloads increased 38% in 2011 from 23 billion to 32 billion, and became the second largest mobile revenue category for both consumer and advertiser spending. The demand is loud and clear and as new and innovative apps are introduced, their users are reshaping the mobile search landscape. But app user preferences regarding search have begun to paint a very interesting picture and help differentiate mobile from the traditional online space.
The App Experience
Apps are fun to use and cool to collect, but aside from the one-fab-wonders that come and go with pop culture, more useful and intuitive apps have endured. The allure of apps goes beyond branding and centers on user experience. These fun collectables can also provide a variety of services that mobile browsers just can’t fulfill. The most important services for mobile users center around providing quick and relevant information that have intension to utilize almost immediately. According to eMarketer, navigation assistance such as map & driving directions, or information like phone numbers or hours of operation, have a higher demand on apps than searching for that information via mobile browser.
Mobile users are on the go and moving quickly and demand their mobile capabilities keep up. The real difference between apps and browsers is revealed in the time it takes to search for and receive relevant information. xAd President of Products & Technology, Chi-Chao Chang, spoke of this exact issue at SES New York and cited the following comparison:
While an extra 20 seconds may not seem like much, for the mobile user this is a frustrating amount of time and can deeply effect their decision making process. For this reason we see apps emerging as the preferred search method in more time-sensitive situations. Browser search depends on the quality of the landing page provided and therefore requires that desktop-optimized sites translate to the mobile screen, while apps are built specifically for mobile consumption. So as mobile phone adoption and time on the mobile web continues to increase, browsers may continue to lose ground to apps in a greater variety of search categories.
There’s an App for That
Growing consumer demand has created an ever-expanding market for mobile apps. From games, to productivity tools, it seems there is an app for everything nowadays. According to Comscore, one of the fastest growing categories of mobile apps is Health, followed by Retail and other e-commerce related apps including electronic payment and auction sites. Trend-spotting data like this illustrates the growing shift toward mobile app usage over browser. As the location-based, quick info application categories become more saturated, the next wave of popular downloads is emerging and finding its loyal fan-base. Take a look at the below graph from June 2011…
If we follow the trends forecasted by combing the above graph from Nielsen, with the previously displayed graph from eMarketer, there is a huge opportunity ahead for apps specific to travel, food and drink (a niche of the already well-received restaurant apps) and those focused on health and personal care.
As trends in smartphone adoption, consumer expectation, and app development grow and shift simultaneously, it will be interesting to look back at this data a year from now and see how the industry has progressed alongside consumer demand. But from the data laid out before us today, in-app search seems to be the clear front-runner… so we’re taking bets!
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.