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UK Internet Users Choose Devices Based on Activity

And smartphones aren’t always the clear first choice

June 5, 2017 | Advertising & Marketing

Internet users in advanced economies are generally assumed to have a variety of devices at their disposal when digital activities beckon. According to a new study by Verto Analytics, there are some clear preferences in the UK in what device is used, depending on the activity.

Verto tracked device usage among its panel of approximately 5,000 UK adults in March 2017. It found internet users preferred smartphones for accessing health and fitness sites or apps. For example, respondents spent 82% of their time on those sites and apps on a smartphone. Smartphones also accounted for 69% of time spent on lifestyle sites, such as parenting site Netmums or recipe-finder BBC Good Food, and 63% of time spent accessing sports content.

Leading Content Categories per Device Among UK Internet Users, Ranked by Share of Time Spent, March 2017 (% of total)

By comparison, desktops and laptops accounted for the majority of time spent on technology sites (84%); government and law sites (83%); and photo/video sites (76%).

Users were less reliant on tablets for online activities, however. The exception was accessing property sites or apps, with 67% of time spent on that activity facilitated by tablets.

Some activities have clearly become multidevice experiences. While 32% of time spent consuming entertainment digitally was on tablets, 39% happened via smartphones and 29% occurred by way of PCs—a fairly even mix.

Verto’s findings are broadly similar to those of a December 2016 comScore Inc. study of UK internet users’ time spent with digital content by device. In that study, time devoted to entertainment was also evenly split among desktop and mobile devices. But there were also some noticeably differences—comScore found news consumption skewed much heavier toward mobile than Verto did.

Share of Time Spent with Select Types of Digital Content Among UK Internet Users, by Device/Platform, Dec 2016 (% of total)

But both studies show there’s a clear relationship between the device used and the content being consumed.

“Media owners and advertisers must adapt their offering or behavior to more accurately reflect how people are most likely to be visiting them,” said Verto Analytics CEO Hannu Verkasalo. “Is the rush to embrace mobile, for example, right for you? Clearly it is for the likes of health, lifestyle and sports—while property seems absolutely made for tablets—but certainly not for government, law and telecoms sites. People still prefer to use PCs for these, as [they] remain dominant for functional, practical-type behavior.”

Cliff Annicelli

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