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In-App VS Mobile Web Ads

According to BroadandSearch, mobile traffic has increased by 222% in the last 7 years, and so one of the big questions that keep marketers and UA managers awake at night is “In-app advertising versus mobile web advertising – which is the better investment?”. Here, we’ll try to elaborate on the internal battle of the mobile device, fought between mobile apps and mobile web.

Mobile Apps Pros:

Users’ attention –
Mobile apps became the space where users focus their attention on when using their phones. They spend most of their mobile device time in apps. According to eMarketer apps account for 90% og internet time on smartphones and 77% of internet time on tablets. For brands wanting to reach consumers on mobile, apps seems to be the safe bet, especially with the conversion rates that have grown a lot during COVID19, when 49% of people open an app 11+ times a day (according to DCI’s article).  However, if you are to go for a mobile app advertisement – your ads will need to not only catch the users’ attention but also communicate with it.

Better experience –
No one likes advertisements, it seems that in-app ads are a bit more tolerable than others. Apps seems to be a space where advertisers has the ability to create a better ad experience for users. 
App developers, and mobile app networks, have designed and developed ad formats that are suited to mobile apps, many designed to integrate perfectly into the UX of an app. The user experience is kept unharmed, to the point where users don’t even notice there are ads, making them more likely to engage with the ad (Check our article about Mobile app ads here to learn more about the different formats).

Mobile Apps Cons:

The queen bees –
While users are indeed spending 90% of their time on mobile apps, that time is mostly concentrated on a few top apps. That means that if brands want to take advantage of the in-app advertising opportunity, they will have to allocate a huge portion of their budgets to the dominant companies (Facebook, Instagram, etc).

Less incentive – 
The amount of time a user spends on an app is usually long and focused on the app’s purpose (whether it’s a game or food delivery), this might cause that users will have less incentive to pay attention to ads, and click on them.

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Mobile Web Pros:

Diversity – 
While users spend less time browsing the mobile web than they interact with apps, there are a lot more websites than apps, and many publishers with desirable audiences don’t have apps or their mobile webs are more used. Therefore, using mobile web ads – a brand can reach more diversity across a wider range of properties. 

Cross-Platform
Brands can reach audiences on the mobile web using standard ad formats, and responsive design that automatically adjusts to each device’s display capabilities. This makes it easier for them to create ad creatives that display properly on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Mobile Web Cons:

Ad Blockers –
Mobile Adblock usage is growing and taking its toll on advertisers, as a large part of their audience pool cannot be reached. Juniper Research pointed out that due to that publishers could lose nearly 10% of the digital ad spend due to ad blockers.

Hard to track user behavior –
Mobile webs aren’t as interwoven with users’ devices, and so advertisers and publishers can’t leverage all of the data that mobile apps can gather. This means there might be big opportunities to connect with users that your brand might miss. 

Final Thoughts

On one hand, on mobile web browser usage is less frequent and the bounce rates are higher which makes users keener to click on an ad. On the other hand, app usage is a daily habit, meaning they do not require the same level of engagement as other forms of media (such as TV, or Newspapers), and the chances a user will encounter an ad is much higher. 

So to wrap it up nicely; which one is better? It depends. Given the time users are using mobile apps, it’s hard to ignore the existence of this advertisement format. At the same time, one cannot forget the mobile web – which has more diversity and an ad ecosystem that is more integrated with the broader digital ad ecosystem. 

At the end of the day, every brand and advertiser is unique and with different goals. To some mobile apps ads will perform better, and for others – mobile web. And in many cases, marketers decide they need both mobile web and mobile app advertisement as if done correctly – both can be a strategic and valuable choice. 

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