Examine Mobile Pathways To Understand The Context Of Your Customers’ Mobile Moments

An alarm sounds. My phone is telling me to get up. I move through my morning routine; I check my email app, then my weather app. Finally, I get out of bed. As I walk to work, I browse the mobile Web for nearby bakeries. I need to order some cupcakes for my friend’s birthday party . . . tonight. I get side-tracked when I find a bakery that offers maple donuts – I love maple donuts. I suddenly remember that I’m tasked with bringing breakfast for our family Thanksgiving this year. I put a reminder on my calendar app.

Each time I pick up or look at my mobile phone to find an answer to a question, I have a mobile moment. This month, the 30 different apps and 100 mobile websitesI visit will amount to hundreds of mobile moments. How do I navigate from one mobile moment to the next? How do smartphone owners transition between communicating, consuming media, shopping, paying bills, and posting memories? Charting consumers’ behaviors across mobile sites and apps is what Forrester calls mobile pathway analysis. Using our behavioral tracking data collected from consumers’ smartphones, Forrester is introducing this new analysis to help brands understand their customers’ context when navigating to and from their brand’s apps and mobile websites. Context is key, as reported by my colleague Julie Ask in her recent speech at Forrester's Digital Business Forum last week.

In this analysis, we help you answer five mobile pathway questions:

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The Data Digest: Window Shopping: Now A Popular Activity On Tablets

If you’ve noticed fewer window shoppers on the streets lately, it may be because they’re at home window shopping from their couches; that is, they’re discovering and exploring products without necessarily intending to purchase.

For our 2015 US Mobile Landscape report*, Forrester analyzed mobile audience data from our behavioral tracking panel to understand how consumers use smartphones and tablets in 2015. We found that although professionals often group both devices under the “mobile” umbrella, consumers use smartphones and tablets in very different ways. One notable difference centers on mobile commerce: While smartphone commerce is still struggling to get traction, for tablets it’s already one of the most common activities. In fact, Forrester’s US Mobile Phone And Tablet Commerce Forecast, 2015 To 2020 shows that total tablet retail purchases more than double those made on a smartphone.

Our behavioral data shows that in the first half of 2015, 68% of tablet owners visited a shopping site at least once in a given month — that’s more than the number who visited news/media, TV/video, or even social networking sites! And these tablet shoppers aren’t just visiting Amazon.com. Only about half took to Amazon —the other half visited other online shopping websites that fit their interests, brand preferences, and lifestyle.


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Older Consumers Embrace Technology During Their Purchase Journey, Too!

Millennials: We can’t seem to get enough information about them. Recent reports that focus exclusively on how Millennials use new technologies have misled eBusiness execs into believing that they must focus primarily on Millennial dollars.[i] But as my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru discusses in her latest report, the kids are overrated.

History has shown us that technology innovation has an impact on all generations —even if adoption rates and motivations differ by age. We even see this trend when examining the role that mobile devices play in the consumer purchase journey today. For example, although 26- to 34-year-olds lead in tablet adoption, 35- to 44-year-olds show the highest levels of tablet use during the research process —more than a quarter of US online researchers within this age group use a tablet!

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The Data Digest: Tracking Consumers’ Smartphone Activities During The 2015 Super Bowl Event

The 2015 Super Bowl had 114 million viewers – making it the most watched television event in US history according to Nielson data. Forrester used its Technographics 360 approach, which combines multiple data sources, to understand how consumers used their smartphones on the big day.

Forrester tracked the smartphone behavior of 879 US online smartphone owners (18+) during the dates surrounding the Super Bowl as well as on the day itself. To better understand these mobile behaviors and add further context, Forrester engaged a group of 157 US participants (18+) in our ConsumerVoices online community. Finally, to capture the nature of public conversation overall, we leveraged social listening to explore topics and sentiment throughout the day across US consumers’ social media posts.

We found that on the day of Super Bowl 2015, consumers used the same apps that they do on a normal day, but certain mobile sites saw large increases in traffic. In particular, sports, food/drink, reference, health/wellness, shopping, and weather websites saw more visitors – in some cases, double the usual traffic.

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The Data Digest: Navigating The Fragmented Path To Purchase

The relentless winter in Boston has finally come to an end! Encouraged by the lukewarm temperatures and sight of grass (which we haven’t seen here in months), I set my sights on a new pair of running shoes. Now, where to begin? I can get suggestions from my coworkers, peruse user reviews on my phone on the bus ride home, actually touch and feel the product in person at a sports shop nearby, watch video ads at home on my tablet . . . the list goes on.

The rise in the adoption of mobile devices has made the consumer purchase journey — which already involves multiple channels, devices, and interaction points — even more complex and fragmented. To help professionals understand how and why consumers use mobile devices along the multistep purchase path, we used Forrester’s Technographics® 360 methodology, which combines behavioral tracking data, online survey data, and market research online community responses. We found that:

  • Almost two-thirds of consumers still use traditional methods to first learn about products —offline sources commonly provide the first impression.
  • Smartphones enable customers to source pre-purchase product information right from the palm of their hand, but few actually make the purchase using a mobile device
  • Mobile devices give consumers flexibility if they choose to engage with a brand or retailer post-purchase —from email and text messages to online communities and social networks.
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High Score! Candy Crush Saga Cracks The Top 10 On Our App Engagement Index

Gaming apps entertain users for an impressive amount of time — on average users spend 1.5x longer using gaming apps than the average app. In addition to time engagement, popular gaming apps have a fiercely loyal user base. Take Candy Crush Saga, the most popular gaming app on smartphones. It attracts almost twice the share of weekly users, and they spend close to 3X longer using the app than what we’re seeing for the average app (evaluated by the App Engagement Index). That’s why it places ninth across all the apps that the App Engagement Index ranks, and earns the first spot among gaming apps evaluated during Q4 2014.

While Candy Crush Saga is the clear winner when it comes to engaging a large audience, other gaming apps earn their high scores for different reasons. Take Words With Friends for example. Although this gaming app has even more of a loyal user base than Candy Crush Saga, it attracts just 2/3rds of Candy Crush Saga’s audience size, and earns a 307 in Q4 2014.




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Push Notifications Change The Way Consumers Engage With Apps

Every time I download a new app to my smartphone, it bombards me with requests for personal details like my contacts, my location, my email, and my photos – followed by a request, “Name of App would like to send you push notifications.” After it’s asked for all those details, I almost always choose “Don’t Allow.”

And I’m not alone. Forrester’s Q2 2014 US 3D Panel Online Survey shows that US smartphone owners are also selective when it comes to the apps they choose to allow push notifications; about six in 10 only accept push notifications from a select number of apps, while 17% don’t accept them from any app at all. Why are consumers so discriminating? Because more often than not, people find these unsolicited app notifications are irrelevant, too frequent, and, most of all, annoying. If I were to allow push notifications from every app I use each month, there wouldn’t be a quiet hour in my day. How can companies create a better experience and use push notifications to deliver added value to their consumers?

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Ranking Social Apps on the App Engagement Index

According to App Annie, messenger service Snapchat is among the top 10 most downloaded apps in the US right now. Competitor WhatsApp lags behind in number of downloads, bouncing between the top 20 and top 30. But just because users are downloading an app does not mean that they are using it. In fact, Forrester’s US Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study shows that each user’s top five most used apps represent 84% of the total time spent using apps*. Just a handful of apps command a large majority of users’ attention.  So number of downloads only tell part of the story.

When it comes to actual user engagement, how does Snapchat compare to WhatsApp? 

The two are, in fact, neck and neck when evaluated using Forrester’s App Engagement Index, a framework that measures engagement success for apps across four user metrics: popularity, commitment, frequency, and time spend. Interestingly, their overall scores are comparable, but their performance on each of the metrics is different: While Snapchat attracts a larger audience, WhatsApp users actually spend more time using the app.

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What Causes Consumers To Keep Using Your App? Three Key App Features Stand Out

What is the secret recipe for creating an app that users open day after day? We used our Technographics® 360 methodology, which combines data sourced from the same group of individuals via behavioral tracking, online surveys, and our market research online community to answer this frequently asked question.

What did we do?

First, we asked participants questions about a randomly selected app they use, including how they discovered the app and how strongly they agreed with statements regarding specific app attributes, such as whether it was easy to navigate. Next, we took the responses for each participant and merged them with their behavior on that particular app. Finally, we engaged our participants in a qualitative project to expose the reasons behind our results. 

Regression analysis of applications

This powerful approach allowed us to align a single participant’s behavior, personal characteristics, and attitudes to uncover the key attributes that lead to increased app usage. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found that apps generate varying levels of engagement simply due to the type of app they are: Consumers access gaming apps more frequently than they access travel apps, for example. So we quantified and removed the effects of app type and other static characteristics that influence usage. This allowed us to isolate the relationship between users’ opinions of app features and their engagement with that app.

What did we learn?

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Applying User Metrics To Score And Rank Mobile Apps: Forrester's App Engagement Index

Do you measure the success of your app? And if so, how do you define success?

App success depends on both the type of app and the purpose of an app; in general, we can't measure success just by counting the number of downloads or looking at the time spent with the app. But for certain apps, such as communication, dating, games, movies, music, news/media, social networking, and sports, it's easier to define success: The more engaged a user is, the better.

To help marketing leaders and app providers evaluate and benchmark these apps as consumers embrace the mobile mind shift, Forrester has created the App Engagement Index. We use actual smartphone behavior collected from more than 3,000 US and UK smartphone owners who have agreed to supply their data — permitting precise usage analysis at a detailed level.* The Index analyzes every app used by more than 2% of the panelists and rates its user engagement and relative performance across four metrics: 

Calculating the App Engagement index


The Index combines these metrics, scores each app from zero (not engaging at all) to 1,000 (the maximum possible engagement), and places it on a spectrum of four segments: addicting, engaging, enticing, and intriguing.

Four segments of the app engagement index

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