NEW YORK: Marketers may need to adjust their mobile strategies as new research shows that what looks like time spent on apps may actually be hiding mobile web use.

A new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence – Apps and Mobile Web: Understanding the Two Sides of the Mobile Coin – polled 2,030 adults of which 1,103 were smartphone owners as it explored how mobile consumers experience content.

Examining user perception, the study found that only 18% of smartphone owners who used the mobile internet on their phone said they spent significantly more time using mobile apps than browsing mobile websites.

But more than half (52%) of smartphone owners said they clicked links within apps that took them to content on mobile websites at least sometimes or more frequently.

This means, the IAB stated, that while these users are technically operating within an app, they are also spending time on the mobile web.

"Understanding the journey users take to get to mobile content is critical, and this study is just the beginning of our exploration into the topic," said Anna Bager, svp/mobile and video, IAB.

"Marketers, agencies and publishers must be mindful of any entrance people may take into their mobile presence," she added. "Many consumers bypass the front door, taking a roundabout trip into the mobile web instead."

Only when it came to search did respondents express a clear preference for the mobile web over apps, by 42% to 20%.

For all other activities considered – shopping, news and local directory – the two options were much more evenly balanced.

There was also a demographic bias, with those in affluent households (earning more than $100,000) exhibiting a greater preference for the mobile web.

The research also revealed that there are a variety of ways that smartphone users find sites to visit on the mobile web, with search the most popular, being cited by 54% of respondents.

Recommendations, including email and word-of-mouth, were mentioned by 29% and links in social media apps by 26%.

Data sourced from IAB; additional content by Warc staff