It seems like everyone is talking about it but nobody knows what it actually means. It's one of those commonly used terms in mobile, right along with monetization, user acquisition and the infamous 'cloud'. But how do you define mobile engagement? In order to effectively answer this question, I want to breakdown the meaning of engagement, how you can measure it, and ultimately how to increase engagement on mobile.
Engagement is defined as:
a : an arrangement to meet or be present at a specified time and place
b : emotional involvement or commitment
If we focus on the latter, then we can define ad engagement in mobile as the user being involved or committed to the content that is being served. The ad (engagement) sparks a change in consciousness, physical form and emotional state. To be more specific, the IAB did a nice job of defining 3 key forms of engagement:
1. Cognitive: think of this as 'initial attention'. You're capturing the attention of the user, sparking their interest and making them aware of your ad.
2. Physical: user interaction. Could be intentional touching, swiping, or clicking.
3. Emotional: measures affect. How does the ad make the user feel? Happy, sad, frustrated?
Take these 3 forms into consideration when wanting to determine if your audience in engaged. Measuring engagement in mobile has been traditionally done by focusing on form #2: physical interaction. We look at CPA, CPI, CTR and conversions to measure the success and interaction the user had with the ad. Although very effective for certain types of ads such as banners and interstitial, it does not take the remaining two forms of engagement into consideration and lacks brand resonance.
The best way to measure true mobile ad engagement is by interaction combined with time spent. Both can be measured by looking at how the user is interacting with the ad: did they expand the video, click to download, swipe through to the next screen, or share the content? The more interactions the better. If the user is actively participating in the ad then they are cognitively and physically engaging with the content.
Time spent is also critical in measuring engagement especially as it pertains to video and rich media ads. A completed view that requires users to actively participate to reach the end can be a great indication of engagement, acting as a driver in consumer confidence. Mobile video and rich media are incredibly affective, showing brand recall rates to be 2-5x higher than ads served online and 1-7.5x higher than TV.
So, now that we have a better understanding of what engagement is and how to measure it, let's look at how to increase it. If we look specifically at different ad formats, its clear that the future of engagement advertising lies in rich media ads. According to a report from Opera, 66% of users that click through to a video will complete that interaction, with an average dwell time of 52 seconds. In the first half of 2012, there was a significant drop in the number of standard ads (banner, expendables) but advertisers serving rich media increased from 28 to 51%. Clearly they're catching on.
Rich media ads are essentially a display ad that delivers a more interactive, rich and engaging experience. They could be video, interstitial or banner formats, however, they are interactive and allow the user to be immersed in the content with features like swipe, shake, tilt or 360 views.
The restricted, small screens of smartphones means ads must be unobtrusive, yet still have to attract mobile users' attention. In order to effectively engage users, brands and advertisers must find creative ways to deliver content. To be successful on mobile its essential for brands to integrate rich media into their ad campaigns to drive engagement and purchase behavior.