Do you remember when spending $2.99 on a mobile app felt like a major expense?

It appears that we’ve got over the hurdle of loading our credit cards into our phones, and the floodgates of mobile spending have finally broken open.

This week, digital analytics company Data.ai published a report titled The State of Mobile 2024, and it told a very different story than we’ve been seeing over the past few years.

The first thing that jumped off the page was the fact that our mobile usage has peaked. It seems that there are only so many hours in a day that we can spend scrolling, and that number is roughly 5 hours.

After massive growth in each of the past 9 years, this year the amount of time we spent on our phones levelled off, and it seems that, barring a complete shift to the matrix, that’s roughly how much of our days we’ll continue to spend on our phones.

But, while the time may not have increased, the amount of money that we spend on mobile jumped up significantly. We’re purchasing more apps, buying more food, booking more travel, and spending more on streaming services.

Let’s break those numbers down:

Advertising

The digital revolution convinced many of us to rethink our radio and newspaper ads, shifting those budgets to online options that could be targeted and tracked. This year budgets are focusing again, this time to mobile ads, hitting $362 Billion (an 8% jump), all while the global ad market grew at roughly half that pace.

Generative AI

It wasn’t just ChatGPT that filled up our phones; image generators were nearly as popular. Incumbents like Snap, Duolinogo, Waze, and Expedia also saw growth powered by their new AI features.

Shopping for Deals

Mobile shopping continued to grow, but it was no longer powered by retailers like Zara and H&M. Instead, we’re digging deeper with apps like Temu, Shein, AliExpress, and TikTok Shop, where a previously unthinkable amount of options and deals are driving huge increases in mobile purchases.

Branded Apps Dominate Food

Nowhere to be found on the list of most popular food apps were DoorDash, UberEats, or Postmates. Taking their place were single-brand apps like McDonald’s (which took the #1 and #2 spots), Domino’s, and Starbucks. This trends seems counter to what we’re seeing in retail, where people are seeking out aggregators, but the common thread is price discounts. In many cases, ordering directly from the brand comes with cheaper delivery fees, rewards points, and other bonuses.

Travel Apps Double

We’ve discovered how much easier it is to book on an app. Rather than battle websites and in-browser forms, we are now booking twice as many flights, hotels, and even trains on mobile apps. While that’s convenient for travellers, it also means that the fees paid to Online Travel Agents (ie. Expedia, Booking.com, etc.) also doubled this year.

Every one of those dollars spent on fees was a dollar that didn’t go to local businesses, or to help improve the guest experience, which means that tourism brands have a real incentive to be thinking about how they reclaim some of that digital attention this year.

Most Popular Overall

When we look at where people spent the most time this year, social was the big winner. Despite the fact that our overall time barely grew, we’re spending 9% more of that time on social media. A lot of that is because so many of us discovered TikTok, but it seems that new features like Reels have driven more engagement on Instagram and Facebook, while WhatsApp has also been growing rapidly.

So What?

There are a few overarching trends in the data that we should all pay attention to:

  1. People are looking for ways to save money — Whether it’s retail, food, or travel, price seemed to be a major motivator in the way people chose their apps and purchases
  2. Social isn’t going anywhere — Content competition is tough out there, but more people are spending more time scrolling than ever, so if we’re going to connect with new audiences, that’s where we can find them.
  3. AI is everywhere — It’s wild to see how quickly the adoption happened, but just over a year after the public launch of ChatGPT, people are using AI tools across many of the most mainstream apps and experiences. That doesn’t mean we should all run out and build our own models, but it does meant that opportunities to use AI tools go far beyond language bots.

Get the full report here

See something we missed? We’d love to chat about your thoughts on the report. Give us a shout at hello@wearejunction.com

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