“We need to be where our customers are.”
We hear this statement frequently as we talk to digital and customer care execs. Execs want to be close to customers and at the same digital watering hole so they have a fighting chance to engage them. Let's take a look a some recent market data to see if we can figure out "where customers are."
Where is the customer's digital watering hole?
In a prior blog on mobile demographics, we looked at the how smartphones are used across various groups. Here we are going to dig into what these groups are doing on digital devices.
The Digital Watering Hole: The Smartphone
Based on recent data from comScore, consumers are now spending 50% of their digital time in smartphone apps. Web access accounts for 9% of the time, with 7% from smartphones and 2% from tablets. Desktop accounts for 32%.
While you knew you needed a mobile-first strategy, this data highlights the significance of the change that has occurred. Smartphone apps are the watering hole.
comScore says the smartphone has an “out sized influence” yet consumers are living their digital lives using all three devices access services on internet.
Source: comScore graphic and data, Sep 1, 2016
[Takeaway 1: Whatever engagement strategy you have, it must address the smartphone first then the desktop and the tablet.]
What Are Consumers Doing in Mobile Apps?
They are playing Pokémon GO.
Based on downloads of apps,consumers are using Facebook apps and Google apps.
Source: comScore graphic and data, Aug 24, 2016 (here)
Additional data from Sensor Tower says in 2Q2016 the top four worldwide apps by downloads were owned by Facebook. And all of the top five apps are Messaging or Social.
Source: SensorTower, Store Intelligence, Q2 2016 Data Digest (here)
[Takeaway 2: What does the high use Facebook and Google tell you about how you should engage your customers?]
The App Download Problem
Based on data from a comScore 2015 report, the majority of smartphone users do not download apps in any given month. Consumers are using some (Facebook) apps but not downloading any new apps. That means your customer’s will likely not download your app unless it is super compelling or Pokémon GO.
"Download numbers are still growing, but the app economy is clearly maturing" according to The Economist. They continue, "Building apps and promoting them is getting more costly. Meanwhile, users’ enthusiasm is waning, as they find downloading apps and navigating between them a hassle. A quarter of all downloaded apps are abandoned after a single use.”
Source: Quartz graphic and data from comScore 2015 report
We believe apps have their place and work well in certain environments. We work with brands that have a very compelling app engagement strategy. Apps work for them because of the functionality and business processes they can support on an app. And customers download these apps because ithey have a lot of utility.
[Takeaway 3: It’s going to be tough to get consumers to download, much less use, your app. Does your app provide compelling utility?]
Be In The Network
Consumers are spending more time in networks on social networking and messaging apps. This highlights the need to understand “networks” and their effects on engagement. Heavy use of social and messaging apps means that a branded mobile app from your company might not always be the right (or at least not the only) engagement strategy (this is where chatbots might play).
“Social Networking leads all categories in engagement, accounting for 1 out of 5 minutes spent online. The strength of this category, along with Email and IM, highlights that one of digital’s primary functions is for communication –now more so than ever with the rise of mobile.” (comScore, 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus)
Source: comScore graphic and data, Mar 30, 2016 (data)
[Takeaway 4: Consumers reside in Messaging and Social networks.]
Messaging Apps Rule
Despite a downward trend in app downloads and use, messaging apps are growing like wildfire. Economist data shows over 2.5 billion people (global data) have at least one messaging app installed, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, leading the pack (see chart below).
Source: Data and graphic from Economist (here)
"Research from Yahoo's Flurry suggests that messaging apps are used 4.7 times more frequently each day than the combined average of all other mobile apps, and users also reportedly keep messaging apps on their devices for longer periods of time.” Additionally, "messaging apps are used an average of 8.9 times per day, while the average for all other apps is 1.9 times a day, according to Flurry."
Source: data and graphic from Flurry via report here
[Takeaway 5: The digital watering hole is messaging apps on the smartphone.]
Reading the Tea Leaves
So the the digital watering hole is filled with messaging apps on the smartphone. But a couple questions to to mind that we need to answer before we jump on the Facebook bandwagon.
Do you need to engage customers while they are in Facebook and Google? Do customers expect your brand to be in those places? I think the answer really depends on your brand: "We must be there," is not always the right answer. Standalone mobile apps might have a place in your digital strategy.
Or do consumers expect your brand to provide similar experience and similar utility as these digital platforms? Think how effortless and easy it is to communicate with your social networks using Facebook and Google. Compare that with how your company provide customer service. The experience is in two different leagues.
Even consider how companies often force customers to use communication channels (voice, IVR, chat, etc) on their smartphones that don't come close to matching the ease of messaging. Maybe it's time to consider using an enterprise grade messaging solution (one example is My:Time™) that can provide a familiar digital experience to your customers.
Where is the watering hole that consumers are hanging around?
Based on our review of the market indicators, consumers are hanging around the smartphone app water hole. And specifically messaging apps.
The digital watering hole is messaging apps on the smartphone.
That does not mean you need to adopt Facebook Messenger for your brand to engage and service your customers. Maybe what this means is that you need to provide an experience and a user interface that is similar to these social messaging apps.
Six Questions to Ask
So to engage these digital consumers we'll need to answer these six questions-
- Do we have a strong and compelling smartphone engagement strategy (that includes the desktop and tablet)?
- What does the high use Facebook and Google tell us about how we should engage our customers?
- Does our app provide sufficient utility and ease of use that we can get past the download barrier?
- Can we create and support a communication style and experience that mirrors mobile messaging as a why to engage our customers?
- How do we become part of the customer’s digital network?
- What is our specific strategy around the digital watering holes, eg, messaging apps?
For customer care strategists these findings have profound implications because most contact centers are not really engineered to support these types of networked, digital interactions.
We’re working with customers to help solve these challenges with our My:Time solution that includes the ability to engage consumers in their digital lives with messaging apps, chatbots and other mobile-first capabilities.