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“A drop in visitors coming from mobile devices”: 2022 State of Mobile report shows a surprising trend

Think back a year or two. Mobile was the ‘in’ word. Publishers were scrambling to reach mobile audiences, with three-quarters of global consumers predicted to only use their smartphones to access the internet by 2025.

Fast forward to today and the picture is far more mixed.

Semrush’s latest report, The State of Mobile 2022: Exploring the Future of Mobile, shows that mobile’s post-pandemic comeback may not be as strong as initially anticipated.

March 2022 saw 30% fewer mobile users than May 2021 – meaning the COVID and stay-at-home regulations vs. the reopening of the economy won’t necessarily lead to the full comeback of mobile that analysts and experts predicted.

This was accompanied by big install drops throughout 2021 on iOS, with downloads for shopping and gaming apps down 20% between April 21 and March 22. Even the best-performing apps, notably within the health & fitness genre, saw a 5.4% decrease in installs.

On the Apple Store, the downloads trend appears to be in the negative territory. If we compare April 2020-March 2021 and April 2021-March 2022 stats, we’ll see that all the most popular app categories saw a decline in installs.

Semrush, 2022 State of Mobile Report

The news couldn’t be worse timed for Apple, with the tech giant releasing two new reports in May designed to convince the U.S. Congress just how successful the app economy is whilst it fights app store legislation (alongside Google’s Android).

Apple’s two latest reports argue the iOS app economy supports more than 2.2 million jobs in the U.S. with the company also heralding a 118% increase in U.S. small developer earnings over the past two years.

With Android, things don’t look quite as bad. Games were the only app category in the negative territory (losing 3% of their downloads YoY). The rest of the categories showed positive signals, growing their install counts by an average of 13%.

Social media is not a big mobile traffic generator

Another standout data point from Semrush’s 2022 State of Mobile report is that social media’s share of mobile traffic generation is lower than 2% in all key geographic territories (except for Japan at 3.2%). The report’s authors conclude that ‘most social networks try to retain users on their platforms and actively discourage brands from taking users elsewhere’.

The most installed social app for Apple Store users was WhatsApp, while Google Play users mostly turned to TikTok. iOS users typically installed Facebook-related apps (Facebook itself, WhatsApp, and Messenger top the lists), with Telegram gaining momentum. On Android, Twitter also gained new momentum in 2021-2022.

Direct traffic dominates

Semrush found that mobile traffic typically originates from direct searches, with traffic sources globally looking broadly similar:

Mobile users usually visit sites using bookmarks or enter the site directly into their search tabs.

Search is the next biggest channel for mobile surfers – the only exceptions being the US, India, and Mexico, where search is the third-biggest mobile traffic channel. Referral links—aside from the three countries listed above —are the third most popular source of mobile traffic.

Cross-operability is key

The report’s authors concluded that whilst ‘mobile has taken a big hit’, it still dominates the digital space.

The pandemic did alter users’ web behavior, leading to a continual decrease in mobile traffic share. But mobile penetration is still the dominant force, so mobile-first efforts should still lead to impeccable mobile experiences.

Semrush, 2022 State of Mobile Report

They also stressed that cross-device experience ‘is still the way to go’, arguing that whilst publishers need to adjust to new user behaviors post-pandemic, many vertical sectors still have significant desktop shares meaning that publishers must, ‘deliver a smooth UX and UI experience to all users, regardless of the devices they use’.

Speaking to WNIP about the report, Jamie Samuel, Director, Audience Data & Product Marketing at Future plc, commented, “In regards to mobile revenues, we’re continuing to see annual increases in revenue in real terms, as well as improvements to mobile yield. We’ve invested in building out proprietary bespoke mobile formats in-house and have seen a massive uptake in first-party and programmatic guaranteed bookings from our clients from mobile-first executions. 

“In support of the findings though, we’re seeing more bookings running with our audience platform, Aperture, and we find that buyers increasingly plan based on their ability to target the right audience regardless of the device, which backs up the finding that cross-device bookings are the norm rather than buyers planning across each device individually.”

You can download the full report here:
The State of Mobile 2022: Exploring the Future of Mobile