The Seasonality Of Mobile Device Usage: Warmer Weather Tempers Tech
Media usage often dips during the summer to reflect that people are more likely to be out and about. But what about usage for mobile devices, which accompany us outside?
Like the changing of the tides, the seasonality of consumer-oriented marketing campaigns is largely predictable and easily recognizable based on the accompanying tenor and focus.
But for experienced marketers, the seasonal considerations for a given campaign go beyond the exact products being promoted and extend to the chosen media (e.g., TV, mobile, signage, etc.) along with how the target consumers are engaging with that platform.
As one example, the average person watches less TV during the summer as compared to the cooler seasons, limiting an ad’s potential impact. But that knowledge has been around for quite some time, and is largely tied to the notion of potential viewers simply being out of their house during the summer.
But how do seasonal changes impact mobile technology, which has become a more integral part of life outside the home?
In this article, we’ll examine North American usage data to help answer that question, specifically looking into seasonal differences in weekday and weekend usage. For each data set, 20 days’ worth of ad impressions were studied, with impression totals in each case totaling in the tens of millions.
Let’s begin with recent (July and August) weekend vs. weekday daily usage patterns of North American smartphones and tablets:
In each case, weekday and weekend patterns are similar, although there is a somewhat greater variation with tablet usage. Specifically, a slightly greater percentage of weekend tablet traffic is generated during the morning and afternoon hours as compared to what’s observed during weekdays. Conversely, evening tablet web traffic represents a bigger portion of activity during weekdays as compared to weekends.
These weekday and weekend usage patterns end up being relatively consistent between the seasons:
This is the case with smartphones as well:
Note that both seasonal tablet graphs show slightly increased rates of tablet activity during the winter afternoon hours as compared to what’s observed over the summer. Summer tablet activity then subsequently outpaces its winter counterpart in the late evening and early morning hours.
The seasonal variability between tablet hourly usage rates is highest within the weekday graphs, but it’s worth keeping in mind that even these differences never touch one full percentage point at any hour. This gap is even smaller in regards to smartphones, never reaching above 0.4 percentage points.
However, the seasonal differences in total usage volume tell a much more interesting story:
In both seasons, weekday usage volume of smartphones and tablets is higher than what is observed on weekends. The differences between the two shift depending on the season, with the greatest swing occurring for smartphones during the summer months.
There are a couple of important takeaways from this collection of data points. Perhaps most reassuringly for marketers, aside from some slight variations amongst tablet users, there aren’t major seasonal shifts in terms of exactly when smartphone and tablet users are most active on a daily basis.
This means that the precise timing of mobile campaigns should not need to change depending on the season in order to reach a greater percentage of users. The maximum share of usage in both cases occurs in the early evening hours, gradually declining to reach a low in the early morning, and then rebounding in the later morning and afternoon.
The Contextual Aspects Of Device Usage
The volume change issue is a particularly noteworthy one, as it highlights some of the developing contextual aspects of smartphone and tablet usage. Under the assumption that weekends are typically used primarily for non-work related activities, tablets seem to be a more “go-to” choice for their owners as compared to smartphones, the latter of which experiences a much larger volume drop between weekdays and weekend days.
Yet, in both cases, the summer months increase that disparity to varying degrees — an extra 4 percentage points for tablets, and 7 percentage points for smartphones.
In a sense, this makes tablet users a more consistent user base from a reach perspective, as volume remains relatively consistent throughout the year. The smartphone user base is much larger, but is more variable on this front, requiring some additional creativity on the part of marketers when mapping out campaign timing, format, and focus in order to maximize their efforts.
It is worth keeping in mind those smaller weekend vs. weekday differences outlined earlier, and that we are looking only at broad usage trends – a given market segment could behave differently. However, these statistics should be a call for flexibility in campaign strategy.
There’s no need to completely scuttle marketing initiatives during the summer months or on weekends, but the changing nature of usage rates favor those marketers who can engage potential customers in the context that matches real-world preferences and habits.