This week, Facebook Home, an Android app that will change a user’s phone home screen and core features, will make its consumer debut.
Facebook's Home initiative is the latest salvo in the mobile engagement battle, which has been looming since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, although most are just becoming aware of it now. In fact, the 'engagement crush' is just beginning and will get much worse in the next few years.
This issue is so significant that CEOs and CMOs of Fortune 500 companies are going to find their jobs in jeopardy if they don't take immediate and decisive action to launch a meaningful mobile strategy for their companies. Many companies mistakenly think their businesses do not have anything to do with mobile, but that's incorrect: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are the way consumers and businesses will interact with brands and each other. This means that every business needs to have a coherent mobile strategy that at its core considers how its customer base will want to interact with it using mobile devices.
So how does engagement play into the importance of mobile? Before we examine the issue in detail, we first need to highlight the difference between mobile apps and the mobile web.
Mobile websites use a browser on a smartphone, which functions for all intents and purposes just like the browser on a regular computer. And it's called the "browser" for a reason, as a user can easily browse a company's content just by entering a URL. We're all very used to this process, but if you step back and think about it, it's actually quite kludgy. First, you have to know the URL of the website you want to visit. If you don't remember the URL, you have to go somewhere else, like Google, to find it. This process of searching for content and then navigating to it is very familiar to all of us since most of us grew up with the early Internet. But if you take a fresh look at things, you'll realize that there's no reason to have such a convoluted process for finding and accessing the content you care about. You should be able to easily access it whenever you want to, without having to remember a long string of characters (the URL) or going somewhere else to find it.
Additionally, the experience with a browser is not very deep. It's called "browsing" for a reason. The relationship between the content owner and the user is transient. Users come and users go on a browser.
An app is very different. An app is a container for branded content, and that container can do lots of interesting things: It can be monetized, it can be distributed as a package, it is geo aware, but most importantly, it allows a user to establish a deep and meaningful relationship with its content. For example, when a user downloads an app to their phone, what they're really getting is a package of content that always "just works”. It's a compartmentalization of content in a way that intuitively makes sense to humans. It also happens to be a much better business proposition since apps act as a monetizable container, whereas browser based content has proven exceedingly difficult to monetize.
So that's the good side of apps. Apps create a very meaningful and intimate bond between the content publisher and the user.
The problem is that there are way more apps than a user can possibly download, and the industry is just getting started. That's why it’s an "engagement crush" because there is a virtual avalanche of apps rushing down the mobile mountain. And as any of us who have smartphones know, just because you download an app doesn't mean that you actually open the app. Think about it: How many apps have you installed on your phone that you never open?
This is already a really big problem for marketers. And it's about to get much bigger. This is where a strategy like Facebook Home comes into play. Facebook knows that users are searching less because they're using apps more. And it also knows that it's going to become really easy to get lost in the avalanche of apps that are coming -- in fact, according to TechCrunch, app downloads are increasing almost 50 fold from two billion in 2008 to 98 billion in 2015.
Facebook has made the determination that to own the user experience, it wants to control the user's primary screen. They're not the only ones. Everyone who's caught onto this looming engagement crush is working to find ways to get users to open their apps more than other's apps. As a result, CMOs should focus on making apps more social, which can triple engagement in an app by unleashing the community of users that's typically hidden from each other in the app.
Getting users to actually engage with apps they've downloaded will be the big challenge in mobile, because without engagement, the app is irrelevant, and therefore the connection between the brand and the user is nonexistent. The spoils of the mobile mountain will go to the CMOs that engage their users best on mobile.
Very good points. Although searching for a site or remembering a URL may seem kludgy, I feel that downloading an app to my phone is much more kludgy. It reminds me of the days when we had to use lots of desktop apps. Now we can just do many things via web apps. There are pros and cons to both as you have aptly described.
I agree that downloading an app is "kludgy" today. But that also means that the people who do download apps must really want access to that content. And people typically have lots of apps on their phones, so it's not like we're facing an "app download" problem.
It's just that only the content that people want the most makes it onto their phones. Which is kind of two sides of the same coin in terms of the points we're both making. You can browse on the web, but you're not that engaged. Apps are harder to get initially, but you're much more engaged (and captive audience in that app's "world").
Henry Blodget of BusinessInsider gave an excellent presentation titled The Future of Digital at a recent Ignition conference.
As you can see from the trendlines in the graphs below, the promise of smartphones is rapidly coming to fruition, with over 50% penetration in the US, and an especially-significant stat that by 2015 the number of broadband connections coming from mobile devices will be over 300% the number coming from fixed (i.e., desktop computer) devices. Translated, that means the promise of blazing-fast broadband on your phone is already here with 4G LTE on many new smartphones, and it's about to become ubiquitious. And that means that people will just reach for their phone instead of walking over to a desktop computer whenever they want to do anything online. I wrote about this phenomenon in a post about how the iPhone 5's connectivity has been growing exponentially since its introduction.
Another significant stat shown below is that the time smartphone users spend in apps is 600% greater than mobile web. As TechCrunch reported last October, mobile app downloads are skyrocketing from 2 billion in 2010 to 98 billion in 2015 -- an increase of almost 50x. And as Localytics reports, 26% of users only open an app once after downloading. Already, engagement is a problem in mobile, and as the number of downloads skyrockets fifty fold, the problem is going to get much worse. Just think about your own phone: How many apps are on it that you downloaded, but never use.
Fred Wilson coined the term "30/10/10" to refer to 30% of the download base being MAUs (Monthly Active Users) and 10% of the download base being daily actives. I believe the engagement stats for many apps are often even worse than that. Oftentimes, as the Localytics data illustrates, 25% to 50% of users don't even open the app once after downloading it. In a presentation from PinchMedia (now several years old), the active user rate 90 days after install was well under 5% of the download base.
Mobile search engines have various bots and algorithms than those utilized for conventional internet search. They evaluate your web site as if it was being rendered on a mobile phone, and they rank outcomes partially according to how well the page will render on the kind of phone that submitted the query. In the event you look inside your log files, you are able to see that Googlebot-Mobile has various user agents that spoof various phones, such as a Samsung phone, an iPhone or an Erickson phone. In certain instances, different devices will present different search results according to the evaluations that Google makes with the various user agents. The very best thing you are able to do to enhance your mobile search engine optimization would be to make sure that the mobile crawlers and user agents figure out that your content will render well and load rapidly on any mobile phone.
Because the mobile search engines aren't as finely tuned as the conventional engines, they're still placing a heavy weight on a website's mobile bounce rate, utilizing the mobile visitors as barometers for how the web site renders on their phone. This, once more ought to reinforce the require for great mobile rendering. Here's how you are able to enhance mobile rankings and mobile rending of your web site.
One of the very best things you are able to do to enhance your mobile search outcomes is follow conventional Search engine optimization greatest practices as closely as possible. While mobile bots and indexes are various from internet search, things like title tags, heading tags and alt tags are still very important.
In the event you have done a great job on your conventional Search engine optimization, the first step would be to create a secondary mobile style sheet for your conventional site, and call it handheld.css. This will allow you to format your existing pages for viewing on a mobile phone without having to create separate mobile content. It allows you to leverage the Search engine optimization value that you already have on your existing site without creating new pages. You are able to use the mobile style sheet to block things from becoming rendered utilizing a display:none attribute in the stylesheet. Mobile phones (except iPhones) will automatically pull the handheld style sheet.
iPhones are bit various, and do not look for mobile handheld style sheets. To address this problem, you ought to duplicate your handheld sheet to create one that is specifically for the iPhone, and call it iPhone.css. Even though the iPhone is meant to render full internet pages, research has shown that people still prefer mobile-formatted content on iPhones. In some instances, mobile search engines will want to rank a conventional page, but deem it ill-suited for rendering on a mobile phone-sometimes even if it has a mobile-specific style sheet. In these instances, the mobile search engines will rank your conventional content, but transcode it for viewing on a mobile phone.