The rising popularity of the mobile channel isn’t news. Most companies are acutely aware of the meteoric rise of mobile and recognize that they will ultimately need to adjust their marketing strategies to accommodate mobile web access.
But a recent Q3 Web Traffic Report conducted by Walker Sands Communications indicates exponential growth in mobile web access — to the point that it now comprises a significant portion of most business’s total web traffic.
According to the study, in third-quarter 2011 more than 10% of web traffic occurred on mobile devices, up from just 4% in third-quarter 2010 – a year-to-year growth rate of 153%. While the majority (87%) of mobile traffic continues to originate from small screen mobile devices, there is a noticeable acceleration in traffic originating from tablet devices.
The growth of mobile-based web access has important ramifications for all digital marketers, but the growth of mobile web traffic is especially relevant to brands that have delayed the prioritization and implementation of robust mobile marketing strategies.
Most people are well-versed in the growth in smartphone sales, but few consider the impact of this on their own site. Our study shows that across every industry, even traditional ones like construction, manufacturing, and logistics, mobile now accounts for a statistically significant percentage of all website traffic. Any business with an online presence should be planning strategies for this channel.
Browsing, Conversion & Email
On a more granular level, the Walker Sands’ study revealed that Apple iPhone and BlackBerry sacrificed market share to Android, which experienced the largest year-to-year gain (42% of total mobile traffic, up from 22% in third-quarter 2010). Apple iPad also yielded a noticeable gain by capturing 13% of mobile web traffic in third-quarter 2011, an increase of 5% over third-quarter 2010 numbers.
The growth in Android and tablet devices is consistent with industry trends. Forrester Research predicts that tablets will continue to achieve substantial year-to-year gains in traffic share as sales surpass laptop, PC, and netbook sales by 2015.
Of particular concern to marketers is the fact that tablet conversion rates are substantially higher than smartphone conversion rates, closely mirroring desktop conversion rates. In third-quarter 2011, conversion rates for desktops and iPads came in at 5.8% and 5.5% respectively, with the conversion rate for Android and iPhone devices coming in at a meager 1.5%.
The Walker Sands study also confirmed higher volumes of mobile web traffic for brands that conduct extensive email marketing. As the number of users who access email on mobile devices continues to climb, email marketing will play an increasingly important role in generating mobile web traffic.
Companies that successfully drive traffic to their websites through non-branded Search Engine Optimization campaigns tend to see higher than average rates of mobile traffic due to the increasing usage of mobile search. Mobile search usage is rising along with the use of the mobile web. According to a Performics 2011 survey, 32% of mobile web users search more from their phones than they do from their computers.
For paid search advertisers, the default settings for ad serving include mobile devices. Your ads will likely show up on mobile devices unless you opt out. If your website doesn’t convert mobile visitors due to a non-mobile optimized experience, then this portion of your paid search campaign dollars may be wasted and may also be negatively impacting overall conversion rates.
Recommendations for Marketers
The proliferation of mobile devices and the acceleration of mobile-empowered web traffic points to several important strategies that can be employed to maximize brand exposure in the digital arena.
Strategy Development: The development of a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy is no longer optional for brands interested in maximizing their exposure to online audiences. Now that mobile traffic has reached a significant level, brands and marketers need to carefully evaluate their sites and design strategies that invite mobile access.
Site Optimization: The variation in conversion rates for tablets and smartphones is largely attributable to the similarities between tablet and desktop browsing. Larger screens facilitate deeper engagements and ultimately, more opportunities for conversions. At a minimum, brands should optimize their websites for smartphones, making it easier for users to access information and respond to calls to action.
Email Marketing: Email campaigns inevitably deliver higher levels of mobile web traffic. Based on current trends, the number of users who prefer to access email on mobile devices will increase, underscoring the need for marketers to consider the mobile implications of their email marketing tactics.
Search: If your website doesn’t convert well for small screen devices like iPhones and Android phones, review your paid search campaign mobile inclusion settings to make sure you aren’t displaying ads to mobile phone users.
The acceleration of mobile web traffic is potentially good news for brands and marketing professionals. Equipped with the latest mobile gadgetry, B2B and B2C customers will have an even greater ability to connect with your company – but only to the extent that you intentionally target mobile channel access as a marketing priority.
Daniel Laloggia is the Digital Marketing Manager at Walker Sands Communications, a full-service marketing and public relations firm focused on delivering growth for business-to-business clients.