Yahoo's vice-president of platform and exchange, Yannis Dosios,
shares the company's Canadian mobile app use data for 2016 during
FFWD: Advertising and Marketing Week 2017 in Toronto on Feb. 2.

Published: February 3rd, 2017

TORONTO – Canadians are spending more time on mobile apps than ever, even as global growth in mobile app use slows down.

According to the latest numbers from Yahoo Inc. subsidiary Flurry, the developers behind an app analytics platform used by 4200 companies to measure user activity for 14,500 apps on 38.6 million devices across Canada (which means the number of Canadian devices exceeds the estimated number of Canadians by more than two million), Canadian mobile app use grew by an average rate of 74 per cent in 2016, far exceeding the global average of 11 per cent.

Neither rate surprised Yannis Dosios, the Flurry executive-turned-Yahoo vice president of platform and exchange who revealed the division’s latest Canadian insights during a Feb. 2 presentation at Advertising and Marketing Week in Toronto.

The Flurry platform uses a software development kit that app developers can incorporate into their programs free of charge to keep track of the number of times an application has been launched, how long it’s been used, what actions were taken, and at what stage, in addition to being capable of dividing data based on factors such as gender and age.

“Generally we see Canada being about 12, 18 months behind the global trends,” Dosios told ITBusiness.ca. “But make no mistake – I don’t think Canada or global growth is going to reach a certain point and stay as a plateau. I think it’s going to be more like a curve, with a bit of a flattening, and then a new wave of growth will come.”

“I think people will keep innovating, utilizing new technologies to come up with the next wave, and that in 2017 we’ll start seeing growth again in global use,” he said.

Marketers and app developers hoping to ride that wave, meanwhile, would be well advised to pay attention to the types of apps that were most popular with Canadians last year – and where, Dosios said.

To start, it’s worth noting that across the board – in Canada’s largest cities, at least – at 60 per cent of app time was spent with “messaging and social” apps such as Facebook and Snapchat, with Torontonians spending 64 per cent, Vancouverites spending 67 per cent, Montrealers spending 60 per cent, and Calgarians spending 65 per cent of their mobile time connecting with colleagues, family, and friends, he said.

Courtesy Yahoo

Those numbers were reflected in Canadians’ social app use, which grew by 98 per cent – but even that rate was dwarfed by the whopping 172 per cent growth in sports app use, Dosios noted. Health and fitness; shopping; and business and finance apps, all of which had 55 per cent growth or more, rounded out the top five.

Courtesy Yahoo

There are several insights that marketers and developers can glean from Flurry’s research, Dosios said. For example, one of the fastest-growing market was what he called “mobile addicts” – the 300 million-plus users worldwide who pick up their phones more than 60 times per day. Sports and finance apps performed especially well with these users, who were compelled to check their phones dozens of times per day for the latest score or stock market update.

Developers would be smart to consider how best to engage users initially, then keep them coming back for more, Dosios said.

“As a developer, you have to think, ‘okay, people are addicted to their phones. How do I make my app addictive? How do I plug into the addiction that people have on these devices?'” he said. “Addiction is a bad word, but it’s still tied to the device’s use.”

Shopping, meanwhile, represents an untapped market, he said, with few retailers taking full advantage of the potential offered by mobile apps, he said.

“I really do believe that Canada has a market that’s perfect for adopting more shopping through mobile,” Dosios said. “It’s lagging a little bit behind right now.”

“I think the U.S. has really done a good job in that department,” he continued. “People are becoming increasingly more comfortable with mobile shopping. It will be fantastic when Canada follows suit.”

Another trend worth noting is that an increasing number of Canadians are replacing their old smartphones with “phablets,” high-end devices such as the iPhone 7 Plus or Samsung’s Galaxy Edge series that are capable of delivering a richer user experience than their predecessors, he said, thanks to their 5 – 6.9-inch screens. In fact, phablet adoption in Canada grew by 26 per cent in 2016.

“That, to me, is a very big trend, because I think people will be consuming more and more entertainment thanks to phablets,” Dosios said. “I think advertisements are more effective on those larger devices too, so I see a very big opportunity for mobile advertising to take off in Canada as a result.”

Courtesy Yahoo

Another lesson, illustrated by viewing specific app use rates, is the fact that companies can no longer rest on their laurels after creating an especially popular app, Dosios said.

“Games especially used to be simpler,” he said. “You would make a Temple Run or Angry Birds and the games would just keep on getting used. I think mobile users are becoming more sophisticated about their usage, and there’s a lot of competition for their attention now.”

At minimum, Dosios recommends that companies keep track of apps’ retention periods – seven days, 30 – and use them as guidelines while developing their innovation and engagement goals.

“I think innovation is needed to think of the customer life cycle from the beginning, all the way to multiple uses of your app,” he said.

Finally, developing apps that are optimized for peak usage periods might be a good idea, Dosios said. In case you’re wondering, Canadians are most likely to be using their phones between 7 and 10 PM – and unlike their U.S. counterparts, their smartphone use tapers off quickly after.

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