Mobile services generally are in an interesting spot right now, with most brands having an application of sorts for users to have on their smartphones.
But some recent analysis by ComScore has found that the app market is "tightening" and brands need to "rethink how to break through the consumer's screen".
In particular, ComScore learned that year-on-year growth rate in mobile apps has fallen dramatically in the space of two years.
Yet despite most mobile metrics continuing to increase, in terms of web usage and digital media time, apps are coming under pressure.
There are a number of other worry lines:
- Tablets seeing declines in app usage as large screen phones encroach on their territory.
- "Walled-garden" approach to apps makes reaching audience scale harder than "linkable" desktop and mobile web.
- Establishing app audience is hard, as loyalty is difficult to achieve.
- Half of smartphone owners do not download any apps in a month; average user is two a month.
- Appstore influence is waning, with marketing and word-of-mouth playing a larger role.
- Push notification fatigue kicking in as users become irritated with apps that use the process to remain front-of-mind.
Here is a short infographic with some of the findings:
ComScore says that of the top 25 mobile apps by unique visitors in June this year, not one was a travel-related brand (some count Groupon as one) with Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Search taking up the top five spots.
Interestingly, many of the fastest-growing mobile apps are those that improve "real-world behaviours", ComScore says, with Waze, Uber and Lyft notable entries from the world of travel.
But, still, the biggest problems in travel are two-fold: frequency and domination by existing brands.
Firstly, travel is - and will remain - a modest pursuit in terms of usage, in that consumers are generally not using an app very regularly (perhaps two or three times a year), meaning that a favourite from a previous might trip might be forgotten or replaced when a wave of marketing comes into play for a rival brand.
Perhaps more crucially is the realisation that the large brands in online travel generally have secured prominent spots with their mobile applications.
This makes it difficult for emerging brands to gain a foothold with a new app in the marketplace, whilst the existing players are likely to only see their users bounce around between themselves and other large players rather than new service shaking things up.
Analysis by Phocuswright found that of the leading travel apps in the market in the US, all but a handful are from long-standing brands in the sector (airlines, hotels, online travel agencies).
The only relative newbies are HotelTonight and Hipmunk, although both have low popularity rates of 5% and 2% respectively.
Phocuswright's senior research analyst, Cathy Walsh, says once a supplier app is downloaded, it has the "potential to influence the trip life-cycle, foster loyalty and capture bookings the next time round".
ComScore says it believe the wider market has yet to reach "peak app", adding:
"Large internet companies command the majority of app time, so it can be a challenging market for lesser-known brands. People aren’t downloading as many apps anymore, they increasingly put those apps into folders, and they are less likely to allow push notifications, making it harder than ever for apps to be seen.
"Breaking through means having the rare novel app idea or relying on traditional marketing and advertising for distribution.
"Mobile web is the primary vehicle for expanding audience reach, but apps are where heavy engagement happens. Publishers must get better at onboarding mobile web visitors to the app, and get their apps promoted to the home screen if they want to maximize usage."