Who REALLY Needs a Mobile-Friendly Website?

mobile-shopperAlthough online (mobile) product purchases have a nature of their own, smart marketers should still pursue how mobile search (and a mobile-friendly presence) applies to our own set of customer conversions.

I recently caught up with Ken Barber, VP of Marketing and Product Development at mShopper – a relatively early mobile commerce player. There’s no shortage of mobile adoption and ad data, some of which we’ll touch on below, but I asked Barber if he’d be willing to share some recent data aggregated from over 50 mobile retail websites within mShopper’s network.

Some of the insights within mShopper’s data might be of little surprise in the context of certain product categories demonstrating higher mobile conversion rates and visits from mobile phones. The more intrinsic value of this data relates to the percentage of mobile search that leads new customers to action.

Key Insights from mShopper

Before highlighting the data Barber shared, the following is taken from our Q&A time:

Jason Cormier: I’d argue every company should have a mobile website. Given your perspective, what are some relevant insights you can offer regarding “best candidates” to launch a mobile-friendly version of their website sooner than later?

Ken Barber: We direct companies to look at their website analytics for the percentage of traffic from mobile devices, and more importantly, the growth rate of this percentage. Some of our merchants are seeing a 10 percent increase in this percentage each month.

JC: What kind of demographics you are paying attention to?

KB: Generally, it’s busy, on-the-go or live on their phones types. The people more likely to complete a purchase on their phones include mothers, office workers, young professionals and teens.

JC: What kinds of products lend themselves best to mobile shopping in your experience?

KB: Commodities like books and electronics that don’t require a ton of research. Also repeat purchases such as perfumes and vitamins are similarly easy to shop for. Last-minute gifts such as flowers where there isn’t time to wait and shop from home are also good ones.

JC: Of all the industry data, what are a couple of key observations you’ve noted that relate to problems for the mobile shopper or mobile shopping experience?

KB: We look at online behaviors during peak shopping times. For example, we saw industry data that showed mobile websites had nearly 50 percent higher bounce rates (31 percent vs. 21 percent) compared to desktop sites during the last holiday shopping season. This was because most websites were not optimized for mobile screens, so the experience for mobile shoppers was poor in general.

The case is also similar for add-to-cart rates, and one of the reasons is most non-mobile friendly websites still load very slowly on mobile phones and do a poor job of helping hurried, distracted mobile shoppers to filter through all the search results to find what they want.

mShopper Data Aggregated from March 2012

  • 75 percent to 95 percent of all visits to mShopper’s mobile stores arrive at product or category-specific pages directly from product searches on mobile web browsers. Barber stated the data also supports other industry research that shows “mobile shoppers are more interested in finding a deal on a product and are less loyal to any specific brand or store.”
  • 81 percent of the network’s mobile shoppers who start the checkout process have never shopped with that merchant, and as a result, create a new account via their mobile device.
  • The top 5 product categories with the largest percentage of mobile phone visits to their website, in order of popularity, are: Baby, Eyewear, Sporting Goods, Watches and Toys.
  • The top 5 product categories with the highest mobile phone conversion rates, in order, are: Toys, Home Furnishings, apparel, Beauty and Eyewear.

Notes on Mobile Search & Ad Revenues

Depending on which analyst you reference, predictions for Google’s worldwide mobile ad revenues in 2012 falls somewhere between $4 billion and $6 billion (up from around $2.5 billion in 2011).

This increase seems somewhat consistent to the predicted local segment of U.S. mobile ad revenues, as referenced by Michael Boland: from $784 million in 2011 to just over $1.3 billion in 2012.

Among the four categories of this U.S. mobile ad revenue (display, search, SMS and video), search is growing the fastest – and, as Boland points out, Google’s share of the mobile search market is 95 percent.

Another quick take-away, as outlined in Miranda Miller’s summary of Marin Software’s State of Mobile Search in the U.S. report, is while mobile ads not only have a lower cost per click than desktop ads – they also benefit from a 72 percent higher click through rate.

Can we expect some normalization over the next several years? I’d say yes – but with what we are witnessing today, it’s no wonder there’s a very valid prediction mobile ad revenues will eventually account for Google’s leading growth in cash flow.


In consideration of mobile usage, mobile search and the mobile shopper (won’t that be all of us at some point?), mobile-friendly websites are quickly becoming a necessity to a complete marketing effort.

Wondering if this applies to you yet? Check your web analytics to see what percentage of your traffic is coming from a mobile device. If it’s getting close to 10 percent or more, many would say you’re already running late. And at the rate the times are changing, may as well check again three months from now.

Related reading

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mobile search and video in 2019: how visible are you?