Multitasking is on the rise and offers the potential for advertisers to reach consumers across multiple mobile devices

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As the definition of ‘mobile’ continues to change and includes an ever greater range of devices, marketers are having to play catchup to reach their audiences across an average of five screens nowadays.

Verto Analytics, the measurement company, has now taken a closer look at mobile app usage of US customers between January and December 2016, and found that multitasking is on the rise. According to the Multitasking and Mobile Apps: New Ways to Measure Consumer Behavior report, the average smartphone and tablet usage amounted to 114 minutes a day in September 2016. PC usage totaled 104 minutes.

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Much of that mobile usage is going toward apps. Indeed, mobile app usage is outgrowing mobile web usage, having increased from 6.1 billion hours to 6.9 billion hours from July to December 2016. On average, 85% of time consumers spent on smartphones was spent in apps during 2016. Mobile web usage accounted for just 15%.

Not only do consumers have more apps installed on their smartphones (89) compared to PCs (81), usage of apps each month is also dominated by smartphones (25).

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Multitasking is another area of growth. Verto Analytics defines a multitasking session as one during which at least four different apps are used during the same session. Multitasking is most prevalent on smartphones, with 3.5-4% of all smartphone sessions being multitasking sessions.

Though single app usage is not declining significantly just yet, the research found that 19% of all device sessions are showing at least three apps being used during a single session. 9% have shown at least four distinct apps being used in one session and multitasking on smartphones happens twice as often as it does on other devices.

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Interestingly, the report notes that voice assistance apps such as Siri are on the rise, shaping a new approach as to how consumers interact with their devices. Though personal assistance apps still are just a fraction of the apps US consumers may use (4%), Verto Analytics expects growth in the area as multitasking frequency increases.

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Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics, says:

“Our data shows that consumer mobile behavior has shifted from using different apps in a linear fashion, to using certain apps repeatedly over the course of a single online session. By understanding which hub apps are on the rise, retailers, brands, and publishers can use this data to improve their services and encourage repeat consumer interactions. Further, the most significant hub apps with the highest return rates offer solid advertising, partnership, and monetization opportunities.”

When it comes to identifying the apps that mostly correlate with multitasking, social media and messaging apps rank highest. Apps such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp were more likely to be part of multitasking behaviours.

Search apps such as Google, Bing and Wikipedia, but also shopping apps (Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy) experience high likelihoods of multitasking sessions.

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For brands and publishers it’s important to understand the value multitasking may present whilst at the same time ensuring they adopt strategies to measure this data efficiently.