Why Apps May Become More Important Than Your Website


In this “Polar Vortex” edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about this transitive postulate:

  • We are spending more time online than with any other media
  • We are spending much of that digital time in mobile devices
  • Most of that mobile time is spent in apps

Therefore, apps are becoming the dominant form of digital interaction. (this is a topic I initially covered in Youtility, and wrote about here – with a vigorous debate in the comments).

Digital Passes TV in Share of Time Spent

emarketerRecent data from eMarketer (chronicled here by AdAge) finds that Americans spent more time in 2013 on digital than on any other media, including television. This is the classic “tipping point” and should ring the “digital first” bell in your head.

This same research finds that within the whopping 5+ hours per day Americans are spending in digital, a plurality of that time (2 hours, 21 minutes) is being spent on a mobile device (phone or tablet). Remarkably, this is up some 575% from the twenty-four minutes spent on mobile devices per day just three years prior, in 2010.

This should ring the “mobile first” bell in your head.

Americans’ time spent per day on mobile devices has increased 575% in three years. (tweet this)

Mobile Usage = App Usage

App analytics firm Flurry released data from their tracking of more than 300,000 apps and found that the average time spent per day on mobile devices is two hours, thirty-eight minutes, which tracks closely-ish to eMarketer’s 2:21 calculation. But here’s where it gets interesting: Flurry finds that 80% of mobile device time is spent in apps, 20% in browser.

80% of the time spent on mobile devices is spent using apps. (tweet this)

Is It Crazy If It’s Already Happening?

Many of my colleagues in the marketing world have suggested that I am crazy, and that people will not wade through the sea of apps when they can simply use a website, or ask Google, or access information in some other fashion. They may be right. But, when mobile is how we are spending our time, and we are ALREADY spending 80% of that mobile time in apps, I believe this demonstrates that consumers indeed want the simplicity and focus that apps provide, rather than the variety and diffusion inherent in websites.

As we say in the video above, websites are on the way to becoming the AM radio of the Internet. Yes? Or no?

Facebook Comments


  1. nomad411 says

    Interesting subject. Those numbers are amazing.

    I wonder though. I spend my days on digital and mobile (iPad) and I do not see a need for websites to have an app offering. I get access to everything I need right now through RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ I wouldn’t want to have an app for each interesting website i use :)

    • HoussemD says

      Apps offer functionality, ease of use and most of all “Practicality” that word exists, I searched for it :) I would rather install an interactive app that has practical daily checklists on losing weight for example, then to download a 100 pages ebook that I will never read or implement.

      • nomad411 says

        Agreed. For “Features” it is certainly better. I was trying to say that I cannot see a use for am Apple app, Microsoft app, etc.. if they simply encapsulate the basic websites that are there now.

        But an App store, a “support” App for Microsoft, etc. For sure, :)

  2. SpiderwebConnections says

    Interesting Jay. So how does this theory change with the onset of Responsive Designed websites that are well designed for mobile use?

  3. says

    Interesting insight, Jay. I think your thinking is on the right track, as app download time keeps speeding up and smart phones have the ability to search, which would make it just as quick as web browsing. I’m a heavy app user via mobile too.

    I think the big factor is the amount of storage needed to accommodate a large plethora of apps. I constantly get the reminder that I don’t have enough storage between my music, photos, apps, etc.

    And then what if you’re just accessing info once? Would you easily have the option to discard the app afterwards? It will certainly be interesting to see how app usage evolves!

    • Hox says

      A good strategy for businesses is to have a responsive mobile web site that offers the user to download their app (if one makes sense). The ones that really want to engage with your business will go ahead an download it if not that first visit, in a future visit.

  4. Rob says

    If apps include things like facebook, candy crush, and gmail… it’s not surprising we’re spending 80% of our time in the app-space. However does every business have a viable model to compete with things like facebook, or Youtube or Candy Crush?? I’m not convinced that the App is the wave of all digital success in the future, but skillful deployment within apps might be!

  5. says

    Apps are great, and if they are a really effective or fun tool you can probably get people to download and interact with them, but I question the numbers. @Sara @ Sprout Social pointed out the numbers of apps a mobile device could hold. Which is relevant, though I’m sure technology will evolve to hold as many as consumers demand. The numbers that I question are the vast amount of apps people will download, look at once and never open again. Like your Grandfathers book cases. So many books, and so few actually read?

    You can draw a parallel to how”liking” a business page on the facebook use to mean that you would see that content in your stream. Now an average “profile” has probably “liked” so many “pages” that there is no way for them to see all the content produced. And people are already on that app!

    Websites can be viewed and interacted with—without downloading propriety software. Software that is expensive to create, is one more thing you have to spend marketing $’s on, and continue to update, upgrade and evolve as your business, the technology, and your consumers evolve.

    I think that apps will be good for specific businesses, and instances. But for the average small business individual not so much.

    It’s still a bit early, but what I think will happen is that as advances in web technology moves along websites will be able to give a lot if not more of the functionality that apps do/can.

    This possibility will give small businesses one thing to invest time, money, and energy into maintaining and improving. Seems like a more viable path to me.


  6. Kara says

    App usage is definitely helping in the business-to-small-business (B2SB) sector. Mercedes-Benz uses an app to sell its Sprinter vans to small businesses in the U.S. and Canada b/c they know small business owners don’t have time to visit dealerships. Here’s a link to a video case study:

  7. MOBY GOLF says

    The reason for such high % on apps is because of games. Also tablets are considered mobile. Most people search thruogh the regular website on tablets. The sreens are much bigger and over 80% are wifi only so they have the speed needed for the regular internet.
    App are a waste of money for over 85% of businesses. Here is an exaple of why. You live in a small town and every business has an app – Pizza – carwash – hair salon – liquor store – gas station – doctor ect. are you going to download them all? The real answer to that is NO!
    Also when you mobile device slow down the 1st thing to go are useless apps.

  8. says

    The Tipping Point is fun when playing digital against traditional, but the same logic also applies to app vs mobile web. As HTML5 matures, the unique features Apps can boast shrinks. Ditto for the expanding world of mobile bandwidth (with the faster LTE and HSDPA networks only a few years behind wired broadband).

    The edge is already starting to shift towards mobile web, with mobile web having benefits in search, multiple ingress points, platform interoperability, reduced barrier to entry (no need to learn Objective C or JAVA) and faster deploy times.

    This isn’t to say that mobile apps will ever go away. Desktop apps certainly haven’t. But the lead, the “everyone’s gotta have one” argument will. And sooner than you’ll expect. As the market gets more and more fragmented, mobile web will win as it embraces the agility of digital in far better ways than dedicated apps ever could.

    Apps were a bubble. A blip that was a means to capture revenue. As cost to support rises, so does the ability to reap benefits.

  9. Hans Eisenman says

    Re: “app usage” is there a distinction being made between apps being used for watching TV (Hulu, Netflix and even YouTube) vs. non-video/TV apps? Speaking for my household of 7, the bulk of handhelds are currently being used for watching favorite shows while the flatscreen TV is being reserved more now for watching a DVD or two on the weekends.

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