As fragmented as the internet seems today, it's breaking into even more numerous channels and niches as mobile apps take over as a primary source of digital content.

Brands often divide their marketing efforts into a handful of traditional buckets: Content marketing brings in new traffic and leads, email marketing retains and nurtures prospects and social marketing helps keep businesses top-of-mind in the hopes of bringing about repeat business and expanding brand awareness. However, that model is going out of date, and clinging to it means companies will miss out on valuable traffic and potential business.

Nothing makes the fragmenting digital audience more apparent than mobile usage. Customers are increasingly likely to access the internet on smartphones and tablets, and marketers don’t seem to be changing their efforts to match. As Brafton reported, the exact same strategy used to build desktop conversions won’t work in the mobile realm – yet businesses continue to retain their plans.

Apps further divide mobile users

As if mobile wasn’t confusing enough, a new report from comScore indicates it isn’t just straight mobile browsing that’s surpassed desktop web surfing – it’s mobile app usage. It turns out 51 percent of all the time people spend on digital content is devoted to mobile applications.

51 percent of all the time people spend on digital content is devoted to mobile applications.

At this point, some brands might be throwing their hands in the air and resigning themselves to irrelevant content marketing efforts – but the situation isn’t nearly so dire. Companies don’t have to optimize content hundreds of thousands of time for every single app available for smartphones and tablets – they just have to understand what kind of content the apps are accessing.

For example, comScore’s data indicates photo sharing is one of the primary app types (used by 96 percent of smartphone users). Services like Instagram fall into this category, demonstrating visual content is one of the most interesting and shareable types of content around. Similarly, 90 percent of mobile customers use a map app, indicating how essential local search and Google+ Business listings are for smaller companies.

Email follows customers on the go

Businesses also need to understand how mobile app usage is affecting traditional channels they thought they had already mastered. According to an Econsultancy report, Bridging the Gap in Email Marketing, 68 percent of users surveyed predominantly accessed email on mobile devices. In fact, research indicates 41 percent of all emails sent are opened on mobile devices.

Taken together, these trends demonstrate a few important things marketers need to bear in mind:

  1. Content has to be relevant and eye-grabbing, or mobile users will tap away.
  2. Readers are fragmented, meaning niche audiences are isolated and have to be reached wherever they spend time online.
  3. Customer behavior in the digital world is becoming as important as the digital content they consume.
Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.