Device Shift Findings: Essentially, The Tablet Revolution Never Happened

by Jessica Ramesh Prodo Digital

Alex Guest, Paid Search & CRO Manager at Prodo Digital, looks at the mass migration to mobile and considers how ecommerce retailers and online marketers can address challenges such as understanding the multi-screen, multi-device user journey

Mobile Website Usage in 2015

Here at Prodo Digital we’ve witnessed the meteoric rise of mobile phone usage across a range of the sectors we’ve serviced over the last couple of years.

In February 2013, desktop made up 63 per cent of traffic to our leisure and tourism clients’ sites.

In February 2015, after the end of the half term school holidays, it stood at just 29 per cent—the rest of the traffic coming from mobile and tablet.

If further proof of mobile’s importance were needed, Google’s all-important ranking algorithm received a recent update that looks to favour mobile-friendly sites in the SERPs at the expense of non-mobile-friendly sites.

To collate some further data on this, we examined four clients from each sector to gain a sample of activity in similar areas. Despite a relatively small sample size, the results were overwhelmingly similar.

Here are some of the key takeaways.

Mobile Traffic Alone is About to Overtake Desktop

Traffic across all industries by device:

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These two graphs may be startling even to those working in digital on a daily basis. We can clearly see a move towards mobile-first web use.

Mobile & Tablet Now Account for Almost 60 per cent of Leisure & Tourism Site Traffic

Desktop is no longer the dominant platform for businesses in the leisure and tourism vertical, and ensuring that users receive a great experience on a small screen should become a priority.

Desktop Use is Rapidly Decreasing

Set aside the troughs you would expect from desktop use around Christmas, and the message is loud and clear: desktop is in decline. Its current share of 43 per cent of traffic (as seen in February 2015 in our study) appears unlikely to increase across the industries we sampled.

Most surprising to our study was that B2B desktop usage fell below 50 per cent on a regular basis over the last six months of the measured period.

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So why is desktop losing ground so quickly? Let’s hypothesise.

What’s Driving the Change?

Our phones are always with us. It’s quicker to run a query on your phone than get up and grab the laptop, or stroll the entire length of the room to pick up the tablet from the desk. We’ll often take the path of least resistance even when we’re expecting a sub-optimal web experience from websites that aren’t mobile friendly.

Mobile Growth is Explosive

You only need to glance at the leisure and tourism vertical device split below to see when the change occurred. 2014 was the turning point for this sector, as mobile and desktop battled it out for supremacy, all the while leaving the tablet’s market share stagnant.

The February half term holiday of 2015 appears to have been a defining moment for mobile, as it took 50 per cent share of traffic. Based on the trends we’ve seen over the last 12 months, I’d expect the same to happen in the summer, with the other months showing a similar level of fluctuation as in 2014 but with increasingly more exposure for mobile.

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So Where’s the Tablet Revolution?

There are likely many reasons for tablet’s stagnation. What we do know is that search interest in tablets and iPad is on the wane, if we look at data taken from Google Trends. iPhone queries peak around new releases, but the overall interest has remained quite steady over the last three years, in contrast to the decline of iPad and tablet searches.

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Housing Sector Faces Channel Shift Challenges on a New Platform

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Growth in housing has been more evenly split between mobile and tablet, although there is still that consistent increase in mobile that we’ve witnessed across the other verticals.

Housing is a peculiar vertical to measure, due to the cross-purposes of many of the sites’ visitors. Often there is a 40/60 split between existing residents and those looking for property to buy or rent, both of which will exhibit different behaviours in how and where they access the sites.

Future Challenges

So now that we’ve established that desktop is no longer king, the biggest challenges for online businesses—particularly ecommerce retailers—are how to increase order values on smaller screens and that all-important customer lifetime value. Using affinity modules and upselling is a more complex task when screen space is limited, and addressing this effectively will be key for businesses.

Attributing offline customers and micro conversions, and understanding how the user journey fits together across multiple screens and devices, have been goals for many businesses for quite a while, but the need is greater in 2015 than it has ever been.

The big lesson here? Making sure your site is as mobile-friendly as possible needs to be every business’s priority. To see how your site rates according to Google, try their nifty little tool here.