With multiple 2014 studies showing mobile usage growth outpacing desktop, it became clear that mobile was a strong competitor against desktop traffic. In fact, 2014 marked the first time in history that mobile overtook fixed internet access all-together. For many ecommerce merchants who had not yet adopted mobile payment apps, this was unsettling news. Today, there is still debate over which devices to target and optimize for as well as where majority of site traffic comes from. Has mobile traffic finally outpaced desktop traffic for ecommerce and which devices are leading customers to convert.
From 2010 to 2013 the mobile ecommerce market in the US alone grew 19-fold (representing 1875% growth), completely outstripping growth seen by traditional desktop ecommerce since the creation of the Internet. Furthermore, only 15% of mobile users are making purchases with these devices- leaving 85% of the market untapped. While these metrics seem astonishing, they show few signs of slowing. A study by Digi-Capitol predicted that by 2017, mobile Internet revenue will top $700 billion annually.
As of today, nearly 50% of online US retail traffic comes from mobile devices with smartphones reigning as the device of choice for browsing customers. Conversely, when it comes to actually making a purchase, a study by IBM Digital Analytics found tablets drove 12.4% of all online sales while smartphones fell behind at 10.7%. So how does this compare with traditional desktop purchases? One conclusion that seemed to be synonymous between each study was that while mobile traffic is now on par and in some cases outpacing desktop, this is not proportionate with add-to-cart and conversion rates on the devices.
In 2014, desktop add-to-cart rates were measured at 8.52% and conversion rates at 2.78% while tablets were 8.58% and 2.42%, respectively. These measurements dropped significantly lower when comparing to smartphones, which experienced a 4.7% add-to-cart rate and .8% conversion rate on average.
So why, with equal unique visitor traffic coming from fixed and non-fixed internet devices, would there be such a dramatic difference in actual purchases? Some of this may be due to the number of online retailers who still lack mobile friendly sites and streamlined checkouts– two barriers that lead to high bounce rates and shopping cart abandonment. However, this discrepancy can largely be attributed to how customers are using there mobile devices.
One internal study by Shopify concluded that mobile phone traffic was largely connected to spontaneous, discovery-based goods while shoppers utilizing computers were in search of more commodity-based goods. They went further to note that the growing trend of social-fuelled discovery was the driver behind mobile ecommerce traffic.
To put social-fuelled discovery in perspective, a customer logs on to their Instagram mobile app and sees a picture of an individual they follow wearing a specific article of clothing they admire. They click the tag and land on the name brand’s Instagram account where the company has posted their website address. Next, the customer visits the website in search of the piece of clothing, possibly to find out how much it costs. Depending on their interest they may add the clothing to their cart and pay by mobile, or keep the website in mind for a more convenient time.
This is one of the most common scenarios for mobile users who are constantly using these devices for browsing and research activities. And, while the customer above may purchase the article of clothing later that evening from their home computer, ecommerce stores are unable to track whether that unique visitor came back to purchase on a different device.
While its hard to determine how many assisted conversions mobile devices have due to their popularity in being used for upper-level shopping activities (such as research), it’s predicted that ROI on mobile search will continue to trail desktop for the next year. However, ecommerce merchants should not interpret this as a sign to focus solely on attracting desktop customers. Having a clean, optimized mobile site design will no doubt increase mobile conversions and possibly prompt consumers to return shopping off of their computer.