3 Big Differences Between Mobile Web and In-App

Mobile has become the biggest digital advertising platform. The small screen now accounts for over 70% of all digital ad spend. Soon, marketers will be spending more on mobile than on TV.
These numbers aren’t a surprise for any digital marketer. Yet parts of mobile are still unexplored territory for many advertisers. Some marketers, especially those with desktop DNA, have leaned more toward mobile web ads than in-app ads. That works for a limited time, but not forever: apps now take up the lion’s share of most mobile users’ time.
To help introduce mobile web advertisers to in-app ads, we’ve put together this guide on the differences between mobile web and mobile in-app — including usage stats, user behavior, and the growing influence of programmatic.
Reach and attention
Both web and in-app ads show good performance on traditional measures of brand performance. A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau measured stats like recall (up to 90%) and brand interaction (up to 13%), with in-app ads slightly outperforming mobile web.
A more significant difference between mobile web and apps is their share of users’ time. Last year, smartphone users spent an average of over 2 hours daily on their apps, but just 16 minutes surfing the mobile web. This imbalance has been growing over the years, especially as new users come into the market: many use only apps, skipping web browsing altogether.
Technical performance can also a big difference between the web and apps. Mobile web, just like desktop web, takes years to develop new features for speed and responsiveness. As a result, web ads can bloat pages and cause delays in loading times, pulling down the viewability rate. On the other hand, apps have made huge strides in performance, and are now mostly well optimized for ad placements.
Conversion rates
In-app video ads enjoy completion rates of 80% or more, well above the mobile industry standard of 52%. That’s largely thanks to made-for-mobile formats like rewarded and playable ads, which are designed to excite users about watching ads by incentivizing views with rewards and prizes.
View completion, however, is just one part of the puzzle for many advertisers. For brands, completed video views may be a good target. But other advertisers care more about clicks: the initial conversion. In the early days of mobile, conversions were low. Today, the average is over 2%, according to Monetate.
Even conversions aren’t the end of the story for savvy mobile advertisers. Mobile app install ads, for instance, measure user lifetime value (LTV). Retailers selling products may measure return on asset (ROA). Improved attribution tools in the mobile market make these measurements relatively simple to pull off, even for small advertisers.
Programmatic makes mobile more accessible
Analysts have been predicting a shift in programmatic spend from web to in-app for several years. On the mobile web, programmatic is already in full swing — half of marketers already automate bidding on mobile inventory, and nearly all the ads you see on mobile web have been bought programmatically.
Now the pieces are all in place for programmatic to take over in-app advertising, too. For more on the topic, check out our post on how DSPs are changing the mobile ad landscape.

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