Date added: 16 May 2012

Ignore mobile at your peril...

Mobile websites are now a necessity

For at least the past 8-10 years now it's been essential to have an active online pressence to promote your business and in more recent years social media has added to the mix with most customers expecting to see some sort of business page on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

The next stage of this evolution has been slightly slower to gain ground, but with ever cheaper handset prices and faster connection speeds (3G then 4G LTE) the last 12 months have seen phonemenal growth in mobile web browsing... and buying.

Over the past year our clients have seen enormous increases in mobile and tablet driven traffic. In some cases this equates to well over 50% of all new visitors. In one example (Company A - image1) we've seen overall website traffic going up over the past year from approx 50,000 visits per month in April 2011 to 115,958 in April 2012. This growth has actually consisted mainly of mobile visitors and if we compare the the overall visits to mobile specific traffic they run almost in parallel.

This is a clear indication that mobile web traffic is THE MOST IMPORTANT market for targeting new sales.

Image1:  Overview off all web traffic to Company A during the past 12 months

Company A overview

Image2:  Overview of mobile traffic only during the past 12 months

Company A mobile browser stats

Enabling the mobile visitor...

In the case of Company A, this is a business with an established e-commerce website as well as a bricks and mortar store so there are a number of ways they can sell to customers... but how do they advertise to them?

Obviously there are the traditional channels of press and TV ads, but we have found by far the most effective method is email marketing. Using email we can distribute campaigns that are co-ordinated with website promotions and graphics and we can track which customers visit the website off the back of those emails. For this particular client, this equates to roughly 3,000 out of every 10,000 direct visits to their site and of those 3,000, approx 80% come via a mobile or tablet device.

What does this tell us?
Mobile is the preferred method for receiving emails and your website must be optimised for mobile to create fulfilling visits from these emails.

Comparing mobile and non-mobile...

Over the past three months we have introduced CSS media queries to make Company A's site more responsive to different screen sizes and this has had a positive impact on statistics for viewers using tablets. However, this client has so far stopped short of asking us to provide a mobile dedicated version of the site. In this next section I'll explain why this is a mistake and they could be missing out on valuable conversions and quite probably the bigger transaction values that mobile websites deliver.

We can start by looking at the mobile stats for one of our other clients (Company B) who have a similar customer demographic (male, 34-45, parent, earnings of 35-70K). This company also has an established e-commerce website and a large bricks and mortar store, but unlike Company A they asked us to create for them a dedicated mobile website.

The aim of this site was to make mobile purchases easier, increase social media sharing and hopefully extend the amount of time that mobile visitors spend on the site.

All of this has paid off and within just 6 months!

Table 1: Compares same 3 month period in 2011/12 for mobile website visits only.

  2011 (Feb 2 - May 11)   2012 (Feb 2 - May 11)  
Company A: e-commerce website with no mobile page templates
Time on site   00:03:36   00:02:54  
Pages visited 4.44 3.64  
New Visits 60.80% 52.52%  
Bounce rate 45.65% 53.72%  
Company B: e-commerce website with mobile specific templates introduced in Nov 2011
Time on site   00:03:04   00:03:05  
Pages visited 3.41 4.47  
New Visits 49.30% 41.26%  
Bounce rate 56.48% 49.57%  


You can see from the statistics above that by introducing a mobile dedicated site, Company B has reduced it's bounce rate by nearly 7% as well as increasing the number of page visits. The website also loads/performs faster and customers can add to basket or checkout more easily.

In contrast, Company A's mobile bounce rate has grown by over 8%. Their page view numbers have decreased for mobile and time spent on site has gone down.

What does this tell us?
Company A has been successful at generating new traffic to their e-commerce website but with the increasing numbers of mobile traffic they desperately NEED A MOBILE FRIENDLY SITE NOW!

As we become more and more comfortable with browsing and shopping via our mobile devices, we are also becoming more choosy about which sites we visit. Our tolerance for slow and unintuitive websites will continue to decrease and we'll begin to side step businesses that don't put in the effort to make our mobile experience a pleasurable one. E-commerce companies and businesses who rely on the internet for sales will suffer most as mobile browsing becomes the norm and our expectations of a good mobile experience become higher and higher.

Act now to optimise your website for mobile - even if you only introduce media queries CSS styles for low resolutions you'll be making your website more accessible to the many millions of people who already (or soon will) own smartphone devices. Better still, think about creating a dedicated mobile version of your website, with different page templates and maybe even dedicated mobile content including more succinct text and better optimised images. If you are thinking of developing new desktop and mobile websites in conjunction, then use the 'mobile first' approach to your design and content. Decide which information is an absolute must and place only that information on the mobile site. You can then give site visitors the option to see the full website with a discreet link at the bottom of the page.

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