Small(ish) Screens, Big Gains

The just-released comScore report, “2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus,” hammers home how important mobile is becoming, across all audiences and spanning every content type.

Despite all the talk about cross-platform marketing (following prospects as they move throughout their day from the desktop, through the tablet to the smartphone), the message to marketers is clear: Ignore mobile, and smartphones in particular, at your own peril. The winners in each category will be those who create marketing experiences tailored to a mobile audience.

As of December 2015, smartphone penetration is at 79%, with ages 18-24 at 94% and ages 25-34 at 93%. Those ages 55+ are at a 58% penetration.

Interestingly, large-screen smartphone ownership exceeded small-screen ownership as of April 2015. This “bigger is better” mentality is growing in tandem with the variety of media available to mobile users. Among 18 to 34-year-olds 54% of TV viewing is on desktop or mobile, not live TV. In a single month, the top four digital media properties (Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft) reached roughly the same number of people as did the top four primetime broadcast networks.

We are in the midst of a virtuous circle. As smartphone penetration nears saturation, media companies and app developers are creating more content for mobile. And as more content becomes available, users are seeking a better viewing/playing/shopping experience afforded by a larger screen.

The study reveals that content publishers are getting a majority of their traffic from mobile, from business/finance sites to health, entertainment and lifestyle outlets.

The findings suggest that digital advertisers, who once focused solely on desktop users, must change the way they deliver their message and evaluate that delivery. A full 52% of desktop ad impressions are unviewable. Mobile outperformed desktop by a ration of 2.5 to 1 in the four measures of advertising effectiveness: aided awareness, favorability, likelihood to recommend and purchase intent. Mobile had its greatest impact on the last measure, the “bottom of the funnel,” presumably because mobile offers less advertising clutter and greater proximity to the point of purchase than the desktop experience.

One final takeaway: As digital audience growth flattens, approaching saturation, look for other effectiveness metrics besides reach, page views and unique visitors, such as time spent on site and conversions.