Mobile Users Don’t Always Know Their Apps From The Web. Here’s What We Should Do About It.

In October 2014, comScore released a report showing that smartphone owners spend 88 percent of their time using apps. While that might sound like the death knell ringing for mobile websites, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, or IAB, has urged us all not to leap to that conclusion.

In this report, the IAB notes that mobile websites provide content to so many apps that users aren’t necessarily aware which they are using: an app or a website. For example, the ESPN Hub app for Windows Phone shows me scores and headlines within the app. When I click on a score, though, the app sends me to a mobile web page for more information, such as the box score, stats, and play-by-play.

The result is that consumers aren’t always aware of the time they spend in apps and the time they spend on mobile websites.

The “so what?” of this finding: The IAB encourages publishers not to take an “either-or” view of apps and mobile websites. Both have a place in a marketer’s or publisher’s arsenal. They also remind advertisers that consumers engage both these worlds, so they shouldn’t abandon the mobile web for apps. In short, the IAB invites us to consider the possibility that this isn’t really a rivalry at all, but rather more of a symbiosis.

The IAB report reminds us that if customers don’t care about the difference between mobile apps and mobile web, let’s not show them that we do.

At first glance, I felt critical of the IAB report because I thought that consumers’ lack of awareness bordered on irrelevant. Behavior matters more than perception, after all. Having mulled it over, though, I reconsidered and arrived at an additional insight: acknowledging the difference between what our mobile customers perceive and the things we in mobile create, market and measure is really important and can have a material impact on our work.

A lot of consumers don’t know when they’re in an app or on a website, or they think they know but are wrong. Many don’t care at all, much less enough to stake out a position on the matter. I don’t know how large the knowledge gap is or how many people exhibit those gaps, but it’s there and we need to recognize it.

Many of us insiders, though, do care. We take a side and feel the need to defend it. The IAB report tells us that if customers don’t care, let’s not let our positions on the matter result in us delivering a substandard experience for either our apps or our mobile websites.

That way, we can avoid drowning our customers in jargon. We can focus on removing the friction that otherwise exists when we require users to complete unnecessary steps. We can design user experiences that look fabulously and work like a charm regardless if they exist in an app or in a browser. We can spend less time trying to educate our audience about what we think they should know and more time making things work so they don’t have to know.

When you read the IAB’s report, don’t dismiss its emphasis on what consumers fail to perceive about their mobile behavior. Instead, design, build, and market your mobile experience so that customers won’t notice the runtime they happen use.

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One comment

  1. […] the lines between apps and internet to increasingly blur, as I discussed last week. Apps will provide information from the web, and the web increasingly will see into apps, exposing […]

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