Why Apps Get the Most of Our Time


ComScore shared a “major mobile milestone” in May — time spent in apps is now making up the bulk of time spent with digital media.  The breakdown is that some 60% of total digital media time is being spent on smartphones and tablets with about 85% of that time being spent on apps (so 51% of total digital media time is spent in apps).

That’s a lot of time in apps.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  If you think about your own use of digital, there are a few activities that likely comprise the bulk of your time.  Things like email, Facebook, Google Maps, chat, Amazon, music, YouTube, etc. — these activities are probably 80% of your digital time.

If you listed your top 10 Internet-activities, I’d guess nine of them are tied to a specific brand or experience.

And it’s these nine that you’re going to want an app for.  Why?  Because the app is going to make your experience substantially faster and more efficient (or fun) when you’re on your mobile device — be it a tablet or a smartphone.

This seamless experience is about the constraints of mobile (short bursts of interaction) and intolerance for slow loading web pages or hard to navigate websites.

We seek out and need apps for the stuff that consumes our mobile time.  That mobile time is, otherwise, too inefficient and frustrating.

Isn’t it that simple?


It’s not enough for shipping to be free. It must be fast.

54% of shoppers have ditched an online order due to long estimated delivery times.  Anyone surprised?

It’s not enough for shipping to be free. Online retailers better make it fast, too.

That’s one finding of the UPS/comScore report that hit the wire a few weeks back.  While at least a few online shoppers are in a rush to get their goods, 83% are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free).  Unsurprisingly, 58% have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping.

What do we make about all these expectations around free and fast shipping?

Thinking back to how we ratchet our expectations higher and higher as we get faster Internet connections, thereby becoming less and less tolerant of poor web experiences (e.g. we abandon a video that is taking too long to load), this shift in shipping expectations makes complete sense.

As consumers have come to expect their online orders to be both free and fast (read: Amazon’s Prime free 2-day shipping driving the behavioral change at the margin—or Zappos absurdly fast turnaround even when it’s not overtly expected), they are less willing to accept orders that will have slow delivery times.

While this conclusion likely doesn’t apply to every order online, it’s certainly happened to me.   Case in point, I was shopping a wagon online on both Amazon and Home Depot.  This guy:


gorillacartamznThe Home Depot:



Same item.  Same price. Free shipping in both cases.

Where do you think I bought it?  Amazon.

Home Depot just got "noped" by Amazon.
Home Depot just got “noped” by Amazon.

Why did Amazon win a sale of an oversized home improvement product? Two-day shipping from Amazon versus a week-plus estimated delivery from Home Depot.  This was, ultimately, an easy decision (particularly since I needed this item by the weekend).

So how’s a traditional retailer going to compete?  Well, the other thing you’ll notice is that The Home Depot was stocking this item online-only.  In other words, to The Home Depot, they are going to have to ship this item no matter where it goes.

Where they could have won this sale was by providing free expedited shipping.

If I was able to get this item just as fast from Home Depot as Amazon without Prime membership, well, that’d be a win for me as a consumer.  After all, I’ve got a Home Depot nearby in case something goes wrong or I have issues or need to return it.  That’s an area that a local retailer can win over Amazon.

Regardless, this situation exemplifies how consumers are going to make the decision that serves them best.  And store loyalties aside, it’s not enough for a traditional retailer to match on price and free shipping when you’re fighting for a sale against a retailer offering a little lagniappe.

Great(er) Expectations—The Effects of Digital on Patience

Scene from Parks and Recreation, tossing a computer.
What is your reaction when websites take forever to load?

An article by Nicholas Carr titled The Patience Deficit discusses the human perception of time.  Specifically, the article alludes to research around page load times and video load times—in short, as we get faster Internet connections, we grow less tolerant of slower web page and video loads.  Here’s the relevant clip from the study:

Back in 2006, a famous study of online retailing found that a large percentage of online shoppers would abandon a retailing site if its pages took four seconds or longer to load. In the years since then, the so-called Four Second Rule has been repealed and replaced by the Quarter of a Second Rule. Studies by companies like Google and Microsoft now find it takes a delay of just 250 milliseconds in page-loading for people to start abandoning a site. “Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,” a top Microsoft engineer said in 2012. To put that into perspective, it takes about the same amount of time for you to blink an eye.

Carr goes on to reference separate 2012 research around online video viewing that suggests a causal link between faster Internet connections and less patience for “startup delay.”  Here’s a clipped graph from the research (PDF):


The takeaway from the above seems to be that when it comes to our expectations around digital media load times, they are connection-dependent. Raise your hand if you’ve gotten stupidly upset when your home internet goes down?  And while our tolerance for (slower) mobile Internet connection speeds may be greater, we are still only willing to tolerate so much.

I wonder about how this human behavioral component affects other interactions.  Here’s one that should hit home: who hasn’t groaned when a friend or family member has left you a voicemail in lieu of sending you a text message?

Not scientific but this about sums up my personal feelings toward checking voicemail.

While text-based communications have all sorts of shortcomings, their advantage is the easy of transmittal.  A glance and you can read a text message.  It also takes more effort to draft a text due to the interface (typing); this makes the sender more likely to stay on point.

The effect of digital on our expectations is profound yet poorly understood.

Your thoughts?

H/T to NTO.

* Clipped from a book titled What Should We Be Worried About? 

Millennials Living Parents — The “Boomerang Kids”


The New York Times magazine has an article titled It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave (June 20, 2014) that highlights an incredible aspect of Millennials:

1 in 5 people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. … [A] generation ago … 1 in 10 young adults moved back home …

That”s a 2X increase in one generation.

What’s changed? Sure the credit market imploded causing a major recession a few years ago, but is that the root cause? I much prefer this narrative from the article:

Childhood is a fairly recent economic innovation. For most of recorded history, a vast majority of people began working by age 4, typically on a farm, and were full time by 10. According to James Marten, a historian at Marquette University and the editor of The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, it wasn’t until the 1830s, as the U.S. economy began to shift from subsistence agriculture to industry and markets, that life began to change slowly for little kids. Parents were getting richer, family sizes fell and, by the 1850s, school attendance started to become mandatory. By the end of the Civil War, much of American culture had accepted the notion that children under 13 should be protected from economic life, and child-labor laws started emerging around the turn of the century. As the country grew wealthier over the ensuing decades, childhood expanded along with it. Eventually, teenagers were no longer considered younger, less-competent adults but rather older children who should be nurtured and encouraged to explore.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” sees boomerang kids as the continuation of this centuries-long trend.

Regardless of the cause of adult-aged kids living with their parents, it’s just one more substantial difference in a generation that grew up at the frontier of digital.

What are some of the implications?  Financial dependence.  Over-emphasizing job decisions (e.g. Do I really want to do X?  That’s not my passion.  What do I love to do, anyway?).  Having kids at a much later age.  Greater rigidity.  Dependence on adult-supervision.  Indecisiveness.

Those are mostly negative things in my mind.  Surely there are some positives.  Anyone want to suggest a few?

comScore: Online Shoppers Shop Offline-Only 21% of the Time

A recent comScore / UPS study titled Consumers Demand More Flexibility When Shopping Online has a slew of interesting omnichannel data nuggets, not the least of which is this—online shoppers complete a shopping experience exclusively online about 39% of the time which is nearly 2X more than they do all their shopping “offline” or in-store — 21% of the time.  Meanwhile, the other 40% of their shopping is cross-channel.  Parse it:

6-20-2014 4-02-17 PM

Separately, there was a one finding in the report that I’m still wrapping my head around:

When shopping on mobile devices, 41% of respondents said they prefer a retailer’s full website vs. a mobile website (34%) or mobile app (25%).

I read that and I’m at least a little like …

Why bother with a mobile site or app if consumers don’t want that experience?  Or perhaps the question is: why don’t consumers like your mobile-optimized site?  Why don’t they want your app?  And while I’m a little aghast at this finding, I reflect on my own behavior and find that I frequently request desktop site on my Nexus 5 when I’m handed a mobile site.

Exception: Amazon.com.

Other findings in the comScore report of note:

  • 58% have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping
  • 83% are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free
  • 74% of consumers prefer most of their packages delivered to their home
  • 53% of online shoppers have had items shipped to a store; 43% made additional purchases in store
  • 82% respondents saying they would complete the purchase if they could return the item to a store or have free return shipping (66% said they view a retailer’s returns policy before making a purchase)