Often when marketers talk about mobile, smartphones and tablets (not to mention phablets) get lumped together.
Before the Apple iPad made its 2010 debut, marketers only had to deal with one type of mobile device when it came time to allocating ad budgets. Studies talking about the explosion of mobile ad budgets -- like Juniper Research’s prediction that global mobile ad budgets will hit $105 billion and account for 44% of all digital ad spend by 2019 -- fail to specify how those budgets will be split between the growing list of mobile devices.
And as more mobile devices come into play, marketers continue to have to deal with understanding mobile behavior and optimal ad delivery between devices. The way in which and the reason for which consumers pick and use the devices they do has begun to show in the ad spending decisions marketers make.
When it comes to smartphones and tablets, for instance, research shows consumers use them in very different ways. To start, the spread of ownership is varies widely. According to Pew Research, 90% of Americans own some kind of mobile phone; ComScore reports that 75% of those devices are smartphones. The ubiquitous ownership of mobile phones means marketers can reach just about any audience. With tablets, the story changes. Pew Research reported that in 2014, 42% of Americans owned a tablet. More importantly, though, is how consumers use these devices.
Initially, tablets were grouped in with mobile devices because people were taking them on-the-go. New research suggests that 85% of tablet use now occurs at home. Smartphones, on the other hand, are often used for activities outside the home. For example, Pew Research shows that 67% of smartphone users utilize their devices for the GPS navigation features and 11% use smartphones to order a taxi or ride service -- both activities that happen exclusively outside the home.
Distinctions between mobile and non-mobile have become even more complicated with the rise in popularity of larger screen smartphones, or “phablets.” The success of the Samsung Galaxy series, and that of the iPhone 6 Plus -- which sold out almost immediately -- led to the market share of phablets to explode 148% between 2014 and 2015, according to data from Flurry. Phablets combine the bigger screen of a tablet with the portability of a smartphone, and the popularity of the devices are cutting into tablet sales: worldwide shipments fell 3% in the last quarter of 2014 for the first decline in tablet sales history.
As more data comes in, marketers have started to allocate budgets differently. An eMarketer report from this year found that 93% of marketers treated smartphone ad revenue as mobile, while only 78% grouped tablet ad revenue with mobile. The defining factor for mobile may not lie as much in the device as it does in the delivery mode. Per the same eMarketer report, when polled about app-based ads, 97% of marketers consider smartphone revenues as mobile and 91% said the same about app-based tablet ads. When questioned about browser-based ads on tablets, 55% treated ad revenue as mobile while the rest classified the ads as non-mobile.
Marketers are still navigating exactly how to classify and target smartphone, tablet and phablet users, but there is a case to be made for defining each segment individually, especially when it comes to ad spending.