In the great mobile apps vs. mobile web debate, I side a bit more with mobile web. In my opinion, as the proliferation of smartphones increases, there is every reason to believe that everyone will soon be using their mobile phones to access the web regularly. According to Device Essentials, 7% of US web traffic already comes from mobile and other non-computer devices. That said, I do think there is a place and a need for mobile apps. Especially today, as mobile browser technologies are still improving and evolving, mobile apps make the best use of smartphone features and can be better tools for engagement.
Recent data reported by Flurry shows that so far in June, mobile apps in the US averaged 81 minutes per day of use. So time spent in apps is high, does that mean people are in tune with the ads that run in apps? Other research shows that users have better recall of in-app ads than ads on the mobile web. A study by Compete reports that 52 percent of all smartphone owners recall ads they encounter in mobile apps vs 40 percent of ads they encounter on the mobile web. I'd definitely attribute this to engagement within the apps. Among iPhone users, the recall is even higher with 65 percent recalling in-app ads. One possible theory here is that Apple' s iAds are getting noticed by users. iAds and other rich media advertising in apps allow users to engage with brands in unique ways that include things like video, games, and other interactivity, all without leaving the app.
And what do app users think about ads in apps? When asked "How would you rate ads you see in apps?" rating from one to five stars, users rate in-app ads right in the middle at about 2.5 stars. This rating does not change tremendously globally. Those is Australia and the US rate in-app ads closer to 2 stars while those in India rate the ads closer to 3 stars. Interestingly when asked whether they would rather pay for apps or see ads, 61% say they'd rather see ads while 39% would rather pay for their apps. Personally, I was a bit surprised by the number of people willing to pay for apps and would have thought people would be more willing to see ads in exchange for free content/utility.
Side note: I ironically asked these questions using in-app ad space itself! A startup called Qriously is a new service for measuring location-based sentiment in real-time. Qriously serves up questions in smartphone and tablet apps where ads normally appear. Users see how their response compares to the overall sample right away. Questions can be location targeted. I have to say the dashboard reports look amazing and I think this is a fantastic use of in-app ads for gathering immediate public sentiment. I received my US targeted results within an hour and global results within 12 hours (all minimum of 100 respondents each question). It's a great way to get app feedback as well.
Whether it's survey questions or some type of advertising/marketing in in-app ad space, users will engage only if they see and understand the value exchange. They will be tolerant of advertising in exchange for free content. They will interact with advertising if they find it fun or entertaining. They will answer a survey question if it is quick and they can see immediate results. Also extremely important to mobile users is privacy. When asked what's more important on a sliding scale, getting mobile coupons/offers or privacy, there was definite affinity towards privacy. Privacy expectations cannot be overlooked.
In-app ads have value to brands, publishers and app-developers. They are still getting noticed by consumers and provide a more engaging experience than other forms of advertising. In-app ads are useful for building brand awareness, getting consumers to spend time with a brand, and obtaining timely feedback. Proper execution and privacy standards are important though so maybe the question should instead be "What Can You Do For In-App Ads?".