Most smartphone owners download zero apps in a typical month

imagesPOST SUMMARY: Apps now represent 52% of time spent with digital media in the US, according to ComScore, up from 40% in early 2013.  Yet most US smartphone owners download zero apps in a typical month, according to comScore’s new mobile app report.  Are apps or mobile advertising right for pharma?

To understand the rising use of time spent on mobile devices look no further than Forrester’s segmentation of what people do online.  Only 13% of users are creators, that is people who publish web pages or a BLOG or upload videos to sites like YouTube.  For this segment a PC is best, but for the rest of users a tablet or smartphone is just fine.


When I get up in the morning I used to head over to my iMac to catch up on the days social media and news.  Now I pick up my handy iPad and use apps like Zite and Facebook.  When I have a client presentation, however, or want to do some online shopping I use my iMac exclusively. I like the bigger screen and the apps I use are better and faster on the iMac.

Now consider this (especially for the people who said the PC was dead, PC sales are up and tablet sales are “crashing.”  Why?  Because the market isx pretty well saturated and there is no reason to go out and purchase a new tablet every year or even every two years.  Businesses and consumers alike are again purchasing PCs, and Mac sales are on the rise year-over-year.

eCommerce orders by Device July 2014

eCommerce orders by Device July 2014

Now if you look at the Comscore’s data you’ll see that most time spent on apps is with social media and games. Does this present an opportunity for advertisers?  The answer is yes and no.


First, let’s make clear that a lot of people who use smartphones don’t like ads when they are online.  Remember, they are paying for time and data use and having ads that interrupt them is, to them, very “uncool’.  But there are exceptions.  Within the Facebook page feed, for example, there are paid advertisers, but in order to be successful the ads have to be relevant and captivating.  In other words, they have to be tested and optimized.  This requires more money and right now can pharma really invest more money into an unproven ROI channel? Then there is the issue of fair balance but that can be overcome with disease state ads like the ones that are running for

So what’s the solution?  Well, I’m a big believer is a lot of research to get an in depth understanding of your audience. That means testing concepts and continually optimizing the message and delivery.  It means having an agency that can do it right rather than one that just does it because a marketing director wanted to do it.  I can’t think of anything more personally invasive, for example, than having an ad for a new MS treatment pop up on an MS patients Facebook feed.


The other bit of data that is missing here is that the online experience with smartphones and tablets is very different.  In my opinion they should be separated because users often have the option to access full versions of brand websites rather than just mobile versions.

Finally pharma marketers need to understand why  people are coming to their product websites.  Is it, for example, to get safety information for an Rx they received or to learn more about the product to consider it as a treatment option?  Each has very different informational needs.

The bottom line is that we can’t get up with just numbers.  We need a better understanding of why and how before we can integrate DTC channels.



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