Patterns of Cross-Device and Mobile App Usage Reveal Critical Insights for Brands and Publishers

San Francisco, CA – February 21, 2017 – Verto Analytics (, the consumer-centric measurement company, today released a new report titled “Multitasking and Mobile Apps: New Ways to Measure Consumer Behavior,” prior to the company’s participation in the Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona next week.

The report analyzed mobile app usage from a panel of U.S. consumers from January to December 2016 and found that multitasking behavior—opening and using multiple apps during a single session—is on the rise, shedding light on how consumers engage with devices and apps in a single day. While multitasking behaviors have been prominent in Japan and China for years, Verto’s insights signal the expansion of these digital behaviors to the U.S. market signaling a change in the way brands and marketers should think about engaging with the mobile-centric consumers.

The report provides detailed analysis of three growing consumer trends on mobile devices:

  • The rise of multitasking—a single session during which at least four different apps are used during that same session. A session is defined when a user unlocks their device and engages with it, either by launching an app or engaging with a service.
  • The emergence of hub apps—apps that consumers rely on to conduct multiple activities and engage with services and content, much like China’s WeChat.
  • The growth of personal assistant apps—apps that allow consumers to interact with and execute requests in their external environments.

Verto has developed a new metric—return rate—to quantify and rank hub apps based on the rate at which consumers use them to multitask. The return rate measures the likelihood of the user returning to the app within a single session, compared to all sessions of the same app. The return rate is the ratio of multitasking sessions, when a given app experiences a return, against the total number of sessions of that app within a given time frame. For example, if you use WhatsApp once a day every day for a month (30 days)—and in five of those sessions people leave and return to WhatsApp during the same session—the return rate for WhatsApp is 18% (5/30). If a particular app attracts a large proportion of its user base from consumers who frequently multitask, that will lead to a high return rate for that particular app, meaning it is actively used with other apps and plays a central role in the consumer’s session-level smartphone behaviors.

Verto Analytics’ data shows that American adults (ages 18 and above) own an average of five devices, a category that includes PCs, smartphones, tablets, and wearables. And these consumers expect a seamless experience as they move across these screens and devices. Brands and publishers now have the daunting task of competing for a single consumer’s attention across an average of five screens and during intense bursts of activity like multitasking.

“Our data shows that consumer mobile behavior has shifted from using different apps in a linear fashion, to using certain apps repeatedly over the course of a single online session,” said Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics. “By understanding which hub apps are on the rise, retailers, brands, and publishers can use this data to improve their services and encourage repeat consumer interactions. Further, the most significant hub apps with the highest return rates offer solid advertising, partnership, and monetization opportunities.”

Findings from the report include:

  • Multitasking behavior and return rates:
    • Men are slightly more likely to multitask compared to women: Out of device sessions by women, 3.5% are multitasking sessions, compared to 3.7% for men, and average session lengths among men (total length of device usage) are also longer.
    • Social media services and messaging apps (such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp) have the highest likelihood of being part of consumer multitasking behavior.
    • Among personal assistant apps, Amazon’s Alexa has a high return rate of 5.1%, as it serves as a hub to jump to other apps, whereas Apple’s Siri has a return rate of almost 0%, because Apple built Siri to preclude multitasking.
  • Hub apps:
    • In China, WeChat has risen to become an indispensable, central hub app for Chinese consumers and has evolved to incorporate services and features that range from mobile payments to hailing cabs.
    • In the U.S., the top hub apps are Google Search, Google text-to-speech, and Gmail (based on return rate).
    • In the category of social media and communications apps, Kik, Viber, and Line all have a higher return rates than Facebook—meaning that multitasking consumers are more likely to return to these apps than to Facebook.
  • Apps that interact with external environments:
    • Apps of this type include quantified self apps, fitness tracking apps, connected home apps, personal assistant apps and streaming media apps paired with hardware.
    • This new breed of app comprises 4% of the app market, with 1,000 apps available in the U.S., including Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Fitbit.
    • The fastest-growing app in this category is Amazon Alexa, which saw more than a 200% increase in monthly users between June and December 2016. As of January 2017, it claimed 2.6 million monthly unique users.
    • Google’s Nest app has 2.7 million monthly unique users who use the app an average of 17 times per month to regulate their home’s temperature.

Verto’s single-source measurement methodology is based on behavioral data gathered from a panel of opt-in consumers that own and use multiple mobile devices. Verto measures from the point of consumer interaction across all platforms, media, content and devices.

Verto’s “Multitasking and Mobile Apps: New Ways to Measure Consumer Behavior” report is available for download here. To learn more about the report’s findings, attend a webinar on the topic on February 23 at 9:00am PT/12:00pm ET.  Or, meet with the Verto team at booth # 8.1K20 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

About Verto Analytics

Verto Analytics provides a consumer-centric audience measurement solution for monitoring the complex behavior of today’s consumer on every device, app, and platform they use throughout the day. Verto provides data and insights to inform marketing, competitive intelligence, media buying, and product strategy and development. Backed by EQT Ventures, Conor Venture Partners and Open Ocean Capital, Verto is a privately held global company with offices in New York City, San Francisco, London and Helsinki, Finland. Read our blog, follow us on Twitter, or learn more at

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Media Contact:

Angela Allison

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