In 2023, mobile is everywhere, but at the same time, it's not really "a thing" anymore. Which is exactly why you'd be wise to invest in it. Does it sound like I've lost my mind? It might, but keep reading, and it will all start to make sense.
Welcome to our series on investing in mobile, where we cover some of the most important perspectives on the state of mobile, as well as exciting trends and technologies that can bring value to your customers and make your application stand out from the crowd.
To begin with, let me give you some context. After all, we owe you an explanation: how can mobile be dead and, at the same time, better than ever?
For most adults, the way they first connected to the Internet was through the desktop computer. That causes many decision-makers to have a subconscious bias against mobile. However, while the computer remained the primary method of accessing the world wide web for decades, its dominance has been decreasing since 2009. Now, in 2023, mobile is more than a mere subset of the Internet. It is the Internet: the first technology that should come to mind when you think about most online activities.
Smartphones were a game-changer. Their large screens and touch-based interfaces transformed mobile web browsing from a UX nightmare into a convenient alternative to laptops. After they entered the market, mobile put up an impressive chase – and it didn't even need a decade to catch up with computers and overtake them.
The number of smartphones sold worldwide underwent the most dynamic phase of growth between 2009 and 2016. The same happened to the market share of mobile versus desktop. In 2009, mobile was just at 1.28% – nothing more than an afterthought for any website owner. However, as the market shares of mobile and desktop converged in the second half of 2016, the former went from a plaything for tech enthusiasts to a medium that companies cannot afford to ignore.
These days, mobile as a means of accessing the Internet hovers slightly above 60% worldwide, with the figure exceeding 70% in the dynamic markets of Asia and reaching 75% in Africa. Although mostly composed of countries less developed than Western Europe and the US, those continents seem to have leapfrogged the era of desktop computers and are now leading the way in mobile adoption.
According to Ben Evans' calculations, in May of 2019 nearly 95% of all people on Earth aged above 15 had a mobile phone, with 80% of them owning a smartphone. Statista’s forecast also shows that the number of mobile users should keep on increasing steadily, reaching 7.33 billion in 2023, even despite the difficult times following 2020. Moreover, the State of Mobile 2021 report by data.ai (formerly known as App Annie) suggests that mobile adoption advanced by 2-3 years just in that very year, while the recently released data for 2022 shows an impressive 11% year-on-year increase in downloads.
Mobile connection is now a universal experience for humans worldwide, and our smartphones spend as much time in our hands as in our pockets. In the UK, smartphones have been the most important device for accessing the Internet since 2015 for all groups except +55 years of age, with the trend continuously progressing. The current level of adoption is making it increasingly possible to scale all sorts of mobile solutions.
Despite more people leaving their homes to socialize after the pandemic eased off, the growth trend in daily time spent on mobile per user has been confirmed. The figure increased to 5 hours in 2023 from 4 hours 48 minutes in 2021 and 4 hours 20 minutes in 2020 – which is much more than the average American spent watching TV. But what exactly do consumers do with their smartphones? They mostly use apps, which take 88% of their screen time – nearly seven times as much as in the mobile browser.
The ongoing shift to smartphones as the primary means of entertainment has also been reflected in marketing investments: mobile ad spending overtook desktop in 2019 and keeps increasing. In 2022, it hit a mind-boggling $336 billion, with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 18.5%. The trend continues even despite economic difficulties, with forecasts suggesting a $362 billion figure for 2023.
With nearly everyone owning a smartphone and using it at an ever-increasing frequency, it comes as no surprise that people also find themselves pouring more and more money into their mobile devices. In 2021, Android users spent 18% more time in shopping apps than in 2020. In the US, mobile consumers generated $211.7 billion of revenue during the 2022 holiday season (from the beginning of October to the end of December) with mobile purchases forming a 44.88% share (or $127 billion) of the total revenue. The conversion rate for mobile devices on key dates ranged from 2.1% on Veterans Day to 3.6% on Cyber Monday.
In the third quarter of 2022, 71% of traffic on retail websites and 61% of orders in the US came from mobile devices, though the average value of a shopping cart was lower on smartphones than on computers. Nevertheless, in Q2 the figure reached $112.29 for phones and $95.51 for tablets. When compared with the same period in 2020, you will notice a growth of 19% for the former and a slight drop of around 1% for the latter.
In the US, m-commerce more than doubled between 2015 and 2019, forming a quarter of all e-commerce. According to Insider Intelligence, this should continue to improve as m-commerce is on its way to hit $620.97 billion and comprise 42.9% of the whole US e-commerce market by 2024.
We've already established that mobile is the main way people access the Internet and that m-commerce is gaining momentum. It's not all sunshine and roses, though. Every day, consumers spend hours staring at their phones and placing m-commerce orders, but who is to say they will interact with your brand and purchase your products?
Just releasing an app without a wider-reaching strategy may not be enough in a world where 50% of consumers will only consider downloading what they see as "well-known" mobile software. People predominantly use a select few favorite applications. In 2022, the top five apps worldwide accounted for over 66% of the total time spent in apps – a considerable part of general smartphone usage growth can usually be attributed to the big players.
All in all, it seems that if you want a slice of the mobile pie that keeps growing every year, you will need to make a significant investment. Not only in the software itself but also in getting to know your potential users and transforming your brand into a new, digitally enabled version that will entice consumers to press that "Download" button and dive deeper into the world of your products and services.
Some decision-makers view the current situation as anxiety-inducing. On the one hand, ignoring mobile sounds more and more like Blockbuster refusing to buy Netflix in 2000 (when was the last time you heard about Blockbuster?). On the other, it's challenging to pull the trigger and pour funds into a new app when you're unsure how to set it apart from the competition and make sure it brings value to your business.
Fortunately, there are quite a few new technologies and social phenomena that you may use to position yourself at the forefront of the industry. Video commerce, super apps, brand-based ecosystems that engage users with more than just products – these are some of the trends that we'll discuss in the incoming articles of the Investing in Mobile series.
Next up: why a mobile version of your website simply won't cut it. Find out why applications convert at a much higher rate than mobile websites and how you can make the user experience much more pleasant for your customers thanks to unique app features that the mobile browser does not support.