Although the majority of my reporting is based on measured data, I also feel it's important to report on the unscientifically tracked trends that I observe in my daily life, trends I notice when interacting with my own customers, and how I observe others using technology. In this regard, I'm now seeing the beginning of a migration from desktop computers to mobile devices with regard to activities that once were exclusively rooted on desktops.
Review of Mobile Device Usage
Before I get into my trend theories, I want to review the hard data I have for mobile usage. This first pie chart shows the percentage of people using desktop, mobile, and tablets to view jewelry websites during the months of April and May 2015:
This next pie chart shows the change in usage as it was measured during August 2015:
As you can see, mobile usage of 34% is up 3.4 to 37.4% since May 2015. While comScore reported 60% of digital media time on mobile in 2014, and Google says that more "searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan," my measurements don't reflect those statistics for jewelry retail buyers yet.
However, if the above pie charts are any indication, it looks like the jewelry industry might finally break the 50% threshold during the 2015 holiday season.
The Rise of Mobile Usefulness
I've been reading the pros and cons of mobile apps vs. mobile websites for several years. Mobile app developers like to cite statistics that show we all spend the majority of our time using mobile apps rather than mobile websites. Before you get lured into creating a mobile app, you should know that in comScore's 2015 Global Mobile Report they show the most popular mobile apps, in this order, in the USA include social, radio, photos, books, incentives, coupons, maps, gaming, messaging, weather, and music.
When it comes to business apps, there are plenty of time management apps and mobile versions of popular desktop programs that allow you to continue working on the go, but many of these apps have scaled down features that don't provide the full control you would have on your desktop.
The Google Analytics mobile app is one such scaled down app that was first introduced in 2012. It only allows you to check in on your website data to help answer questions on the go. The full setup and management features are still only available through the desktop version of the site.
Other than Google Analytics, other service companies are now providing mobile apps to keep you connected to your information. Telephone companies have even made some advances here with mobile apps that automatically ring when your office phone rings. In most cases, this alleviates the need for previously popular call forwarding features. This is how my own VoIP phone works now.
In yesterday's Nugget, I showed how you could use Weebly to manage your SEO settings. The screen shots used in that Nugget came from my iPad. Weebly designed their website interface to be compatible with desktops and tablets so on-the-go business owners could change their website from anywhere. They also have a tablet app that allows the same editing control. On the other hand they have a smartphone app that only shows the website usage statistics and doesn't allow editing.
These are just some simple examples of trends I'm watching, there are several others that lead me to believe that there will be a continued shift away from desktops to tablets and smartphones as more software and service companies provide easy apps and mobile compatible interfaces that allow for ethernet cable cutting.
Mobile Usage Shifts
The shift is happening. I'm seeing more people spend time on their smartphone than their desktop. Social media, photos, maps, and email are the popular app I see everyone use. Additionally, I know every earbud touting person is either listing to the radio, a book, or their music library. Serious music lovers proudly wear large earphones in public.
What I really find fascinating is how many people now avoid using their desktop computer unless absolutely necessary. Those who are 55 and older often find it easier now to use their smartphones for everything and return to their computer as little as possible, perhaps only 2 or 3 times per week. Their smartphones are more advanced than their computers, and often faster than the desktop computer that is now 5 or more years old.
Take a look at this platform usage chart form comScore's 2015 Global Mobile Report
The 18-34 generation, that's the Millennial group, spends most of their time on the smartphone. For them, they won't bother with a business unless they can interact via mobile. They might consider saving something to review later on their desktop, but by then they might have lost interest too.
It shows us that the 35-54 age group spends 50% of their time on their smartphone and only 37% on their desktop.
I find it interesting that the 55 and older group uses their desktop 51% and they are also using a tablet more than the other two age groups. I view this as a confirmation that this group has older computers that they don't want to upgrade, opting instead for a tablet alternative.
Looking at these numbers you really have to ask yourself if you are properly serving your customers through the method they prefer. In other words, do you have a mobile presence that works to support your brand, or are you stuck in a pre-mobile world?
We all want to cut the ethernet cord, but the software and services we use are keeping us tethered to our desktops. Those of us who require massive storage capacity and CPU speed have no choice but to stay tethered for many years to come, but everyone else wants to live in an ethernet cable free world.
Businesses won't survive unless they figure out how to service all their customers in a mobile world.
Mobile App or Mobile Site?
App development takes a lot of time. Before you consider building a mobile app for your business you need to consider if it makes sense. Will someone use you app more than 2 or 3 times per week, or just once a month? If you choose to develop an app you then need to decide if you'll make a full featured app or a scaled down one with only the features people will need when on-the-go.
Honestly, I don't see any valid reason for a business to create a mobile app version of their website when creating a mobile website is much easier to create and maintain. Updating you unique app requires a programmer, but updating your website can be done by anyone when using a content management system. Admittedly, you can use a mobile app CMS, but then you'll be stuck using an app template that doesn't match your business image.
My recommendation for all businesses is to create a mobile website rather than an app. Just make sure everything you can do on your full website is also available on the mobile version. Just don't stop there; once you have a mobile website the next step is to think of other ways to engage with your customers through their smartphones.
It's time to morph into a new, mobile only method of doing business with your customers. This transformation won't happen overnight, but if you don't start now I predict you will end up out of business in just a few years.