The mobile onslaught


I’m sure you (business owner, marketing manager, Head of ecommerce) have heard the following spiel from your agency or Google a million times already: “you must ensure that your site is mobile friendly sooner rather than later”. In fact, you’ve probably heard it so many times that you’ve learnt how to filter out this warning.

Yes, we all know that the mobile onslaught is fast approaching – the data in our analytics accounts is quite clear, and we’ve known this for some time. After all, mobile traffic has been increasing in droves for the past five years whilst desktop traffic seems to be growing only at a modest rate or slowing to a steady halt.

What We Already Know About Mobile Users

According to data from the Global Web Index, 80% of internet users own a smartphone. Eighty Percent! So essentially, most users that visit your website own a smartphone. This fact alone speaks volumes about the importance of implementing a mobile strategy.

Out of pure curiosity, today I carried out some quick analysis across a sample of our own ecommerce clients’ website data, comparing the last 3 months of this year (May-July 2015) to the same period last year (May-July 2014). Here are the results:

% Ecommerce traffic arriving from mobile in 2014: 25%
% Ecommerce traffic arriving from mobile in 2015: 36%

That’s a huge increase of 44% in the percentage of users viewing ecommerce websites on their mobile device. That’s some significant growth. I expect (as do online marketers across the planet), that this trend will continue and, by January 2016, the percentage of mobile shoppers will likely be even more staggering. What’s more shocking and worth bearing in mind, is that the figures I’ve shown above are all aggregate data – they include a mix of verticals, some of which lend themselves better to mobile, some of which don’t. These figures also only include mobile smartphone data – I haven’t even included tablet traffic, which would account for an even greater percentage.

We also know that users are becoming more confident about making purchases on their mobile device. By the end of 2015, a QUARTER of ALL CONSUMERS will have purchased online via their mobile device (source: econsultancy).

Long story short: growth in desktop shopping is fast going the way of the dinosaur, and if you don’t act soon, so too could your business become outdated, cast aside and left for extinction.

Proof of the Pudding – Cross Device Tracking

As online marketers we keep on at our clients about the importance of their site being mobile-friendly. “Ah,” says the client, “but most of my revenue is still generated by desktop. Surely it makes sense to keep investing in the desktop traffic and wait a bit longer until mobile truly takes over?”.

Well, this may appear true from a top-level view and to the untrained eye, but as soon as we implement cross-device tracking onto their website, the client’s illusion of a desktop-only strategy is soon shattered. Indeed, I’m afraid that the onslaught is already here, but in disguise – it’s just hidden in the stats waiting to be found. Here’s an example screenshot of one of our clients (omitting session and revenue data) of the top 10 device paths prior to a purchase:

Device path to purchase

Perhaps unsurprisingly, desktop is still the top converting device. But look just a few steps down and we see that focusing on this one coveted path is futile: aside from the mix of tablet, mobile and desktop points with which each user has interacted, there are hundreds of other interactions that all involve connections unique to the individual user (to show them all would require lots of space on this blog).

So let’s break this image down to something more fundamental and groundbreaking, which could potentially shatter your illusions of all that you hold dear:

Origin Device

This view in Analytics shows the top acquisitions by originating device. Interestingly, mobile accounts for the greatest number of first-interaction sales. I.e., it drives the most sales, generates the initial awareness that led to the sale. Desktop is a meagre second place. In a nutshell: this client’s online strategy is now mobile. The focus for them should be on ensuring that not only desktop visitors are provided with a fantastic first impression, but also mobile and tablet users.

Other Cross-Device Signs

Aside from implementing cross device tracking such as the above kind, there are other signs of cross device behaviour that can be seen. Cross device tracking can’t always be implemented (for example, if our client’s website doesn’t have an account login system or there are other limitations, legislative or technical). Still, we can often identify the signs of cross device behaviour. Here’s an example showing one of our ecommerce client’s year-on-year data (session, revenue and transaction data omitted):


Cross Device Data

There are key points to note about the above figures:

  1. Desktop appears to account for the greatest proportion of revenue (most people purchase on desktop)
  2. Year on year, there has been a huge increase in mobile traffic
  3. Year-on-year, there has been a decrease in the number of pages viewed and the session duration amongst desktop users
  4. Despite a decrease in desktop engagement, the desktop conversion rate has increased by 26%

So, why are people viewing less pages and spending less time on desktop, yet the desktop conversion rate has increased quite significantly? Because users are discovering and researching on their mobile device, before returning to the site via desktop to complete the transaction. These desktop users already know what they want, where they are going, how to get there. That’s a key part of mobile’s purpose: it’s a learning exercise for the user as well as a marketing/acquisition strategy, and if the mobile experience is a positive one (as it is for the above client), then the gains will be seen on desktop. It’s a win-win situation: excellent user experience on all devices, equals more revenue generated across all devices.

Big Picture Multi Device Marketing

Focussing and stressing over conversion rates by individual device (whilst valid) is only looking at things in a little-picture way, neglecting to see the bigger picture. After all, we already know that mobile conversion rates are typically lower than desktop or tablet. Mobile is a researching device, an initiator. So instead, businesses should first examine and compare year on year the site’s overall conversion rate, as this gives an indication of overall performance. If customers return to your site on an alternate device (but do so with conviction to purchase), your website’s conversion rate should reflect the success of your multi-device strategy as you continually cater to a mobile audience.

If the user has a poor mobile experience, then not only can you expect to see a poor mobile conversion rate; you can also expect the desktop conversion rate to drop, as fewer mobile phone users (remember – these account for 80% of internet shoppers!) return to your website to purchase on desktop or tablet. We have seen this negative effect on several websites where there was previously no focus on mobile. Let this be a warning to all businesses who are in denial about the importance of mobile traffic.

So I’m afraid us agencies will keep nudging you, keep sending you these blatant messages until the message has well and truly stuck in.

Ensure your website is mobile friendly!

The mobile onslaught

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