Chart of the Week: Is Multitasking on the Rise?

Earlier this year, we addressed the rise of multitasking, and especially how it impacts consumer behavior on mobile devices (among U.S. adults, ages 18 and above). Verto Analytics defines a multitasking session as one session during which at least four different apps are used during that same session—and at least seven different “shifts” (from app to app) occur among these apps. For example, if you unlock your smartphone, launch Facebook, check your email, use Pinterest, check your messages on WhatsApp, relaunch Facebook, check WhatsApp again, compose a message in your e-mail app, and then lock the device again, that would constitute a multitasking session, since it involves at least four different apps and at least seven shifts from app to app within a single device session.

Is Mobile Multitasking on the Rise?

While consumers engage in multitasking behavior across both mobile and desktop devices, it’s a far more prevalent behavior on smartphones, where it occurs twice as often on PCs. So how quickly is consumer multitasking growing, and especially mobile multitasking? According to Verto Analytics data, by July 2016, about one third (34%) of all mobile device sessions were multitasking sessions, based on the above criteria. Just over a year later (by September 2017), that figure had risen to 36.5%. While this represents just a small increase, it does indicate that mobile multitasking is continuing to rise. Given that the average consumer racks up 23 mobile device sessions (as opposed to basic phone screen unlocking incidences) per day, this means that consumers engaged in an average of 7.8 mobile multitasking sessions last year, while that metric has risen to an average of 8.8 mobile multitasking sessions this year.

Understanding multitasking behavior is a crucial component of deciphering the consumer journey, especially on mobile: as our earlier research revealed, brands, publishers, and agencies can dig in to multitasking to uncover the interaction and cooperative dynamics between apps — and the evolution of consumer in-app usage — to ultimately drive growth in user numbers, user engagement, and monetization or partnership potential. And as mobile multitasking continues to take up a greater share of consumer mobile activity, mobile consumer app journeys will become an increasingly important behavior for any digital business to grasp.

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