Despite Impressive Growth, Facebook Is Facing Mobile Ad Challenges

Facebook now has 819 million mobile monthly active users. That’s a huge audience. That’s actually 71% of total active users.

Yesterday, Facebook reported they generated 41% of total ad revenues via mobile. That’s pretty impressive considering they generated nearly 0% end 2011 when they had already 432 million mobile monthly users. Since the launch of mobile ads in 2012, Facebook steadily increased the share of mobile in total ad revenues: it was 23% end 2012 and 30% in Q1 2013.

There is still a monetization gap in comparison to the share of their mobile audience, but that’s definitely impressive for a new product.

There are a couple of reasons for this sharp increase.  Time spent on Facebook is meaningful. Facebook’s mobile ads integrate well in the natural flow of Facebook’s news feeds. They are quite visible and are increasingly successful at driving mobile app installs. According to our European Technographics Consumer Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012, 16% of online adult smartphone owners (ages 16-plus) who use apps report that they first learned about an app via social networking websites such as Facebook. No wonder why the likes of Fiksu and other app boosters spent a lot of money on Facebook mobile ads.  Cost per click increased despite a lot more clicks and ads shown.

For this approach to be successful in the longer term, there are a couple of key questions to be answered:

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5 Years And 50 Billion Downloads Later, Apple Still Leads The App Store Economy

 

More often than not, people refer to 2007 and the launch of the iPhone as the key milestone that changed forever the mobile industry. Despite an incredible device, Apple struggled the first few months because its business model relied on sharing revenues with telecom operators instead of letting them subsidize its smartphones. The key milestone was in fact July 2008 and the launch of the Apple App Store because it symbolized a new era: the shift from hardware to software in the mobile industry.

While Apple was not the first app marketplace, it is fair to say it created the App economy. 5 years and 50 billion downloads later, where do we stand?   

  • App Stores: A Unique Opportunity To Engage Consumers Directly

Ask console gaming companies what they think of disruption created by app stores (now a generic term following the end of the “app store” name lawsuit between Apple and Amazon) and you’ll get a sense of what the app economy is. We’re scratching the surface of changes to come but clearly the app economy enables brands (including those who do not have a  retail presence) to get insights on consumer behaviors to create new products and to distribute them at much lower cost. Numerous consumer app stores have flourished (more than 70 different Android-based app stores in China!) but few are really succeeding. Google Play has surpassed the Apple App Store when it comes to the sheer number of available apps and both have surpassed 50 billion downloads leaving competitors in the dust. However, volume does not matter so much any more. This is all about usage, personalization and recommendation.

  • App Monetization: Not There Yet
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