Mobile Marketing for E-commerce: Insight Into Real Data

Mobile Marketing for E-commerce

Up to 7% of all e-commerce website traffic is now coming from mobile devices, with a median of 3.5%. At least that is the picture we’re seeing here in the UK using a sample size of 22 UK ecommerce sites (data period July – September 2010). Just to be clear, that’s for general websites, not mobile specific sites.

And retailers are starting to notice those visitors from mobiles beginning to transact, even where they are not making specific marketing efforts to encourage this. Maybe not quite at the same ratio as visits (at least in the case of websites, rather than pure mobile apps) – but converting nevertheless.

Personally, I generally see little value in comparing one organisation’s conversion rate with another – but people naturally keep asking. So with all the standard provisos in place (different types of retailers, different traffic levels, different demographics etc, etc) the conversion figures we are seeing at Highland Business Research in the aggregated sample data are on average 1.3% e-commerce conversion rate coming from mobile devices and a median conversion rate of 0.9% (time period July – September 2010).

The average is being pulled higher than the median by some infrequent, but exceptionally high mobile conversion rates in response to email marketing campaigns.

Some, but by no means all, of the retailers in our sample also saw mobile transactions commanding noticeably higher average order values, when compared to all visits.

Which Mobile Devices Drive Business?

Apple devices account for more than 80% of all mobile traffic on UK e-commerce sites surveyed, while the remainder is split mostly between Nokia, Android and Blackberry. So it is no surprise that many retailers are still opting to develop for Apple iOS only with their mobile applications at this stage – though evidence in the UK market suggests this is changing very quickly. A number of retailers will be launching transactional applications on other mobile platforms in the coming months as demand from other handsets increases. Tesco recently choose to develop for the Nokia platform prior to the iPhone because their target markets are high users of Nokia handsets.

What is interesting to note is that while the iPhone drives by far the most mobile traffic to the retail websites in our sample, depending on the site type and user demographic, other devices have a proportionately higher share of conversions. As the graph of aggregated retailer data shows, the iPad and Nokia/Symbian have a higher share of transaction revenue, compared to share of visits. These devices are converting well. For one site where we have conducted secondary off site research to explore this further, we have found evidence to suggest that this is not a question of usability, but more likely related to the fact that Nokia users more closely represent the profile of the site’s highest value customers than the iPhone users (particularly in terms of demographics like gender and age).

website revenue by mobile device

Mobile Usage - Where, When and What?

Mobile is all about where the user is and their ability to interact with a retailer’s brand and proposition at a time that is right for them. While many people have access to the web at both home and work, the same is not always true of their work email address, even though this is typically the address used for email subscriptions. But we’re seeing data that shows email responsiveness is extremely high from mobile devices. As the graph below shows, we are also seeing clear evidence that the proportion of revenue coming in from mobile is higher out of office and traditional physical store opening hours.

There is clearly a potential opportunity here - if you want to reach people outside of working hours, if you want to be highly responsive to specific events or drive people online out of physical store opening hours, the evidence seems to suggest a strong case for using mobile.

mobile revenue by hour of the day

Mobile Apps Conversion

There has tended to be an assumption that there is an either/or about developing mobile apps and optimising websites for mobile, or building mobile specific websites. But the data we’re seeing suggests that mobile apps have a different role and can bring value and deliver specific user behaviours that differ from mobile usage of store websites.

For example, in general, we’re seeing around 20% of all usage of mobile commerce apps occurring offline (not connected to a network) which demonstrates the importance of having content that is available both online and offline. Users are clearly expecting to be able to interact with the application and the brand even when they are not in a coverage area or connected to the website. We’re also seeing apps that are very focussed on driving in store behaviour and that function as in store virtual shop assistants.

debenhams virtual assistant app

Debenhams recently launched a virtual assistant app, produced by NN4M, a major function of which is to drive shoppers instore. The ‘instore’ experience, with gift list and barcode scanning functionality is at least as important as the out of store capabilities. The app has topped the retail download charts, been heavily promoted by Debenhams and is clearly aimed at serving a value and experience enhancement purpose beyond simply transacting online.

Do mobile applications convert? The simple answer, based on the data we’ve seen, is yes. Almost all the good quality mobile applications that we’ve seen with transactional capability launched in the last 12-18 months have paid for themselves within a very short time period. It is tricky to make straight comparisons between web and mobile apps conversion – especially for apps aimed at driving shoppers into the physical stores. Each brand is different - as is the user acceptance, promotional support and of course quality of the app. Considering only the quality apps that are fit for purpose, some have matched (or better) the online conversion rate from mobile almost immediately others have taken some months to reach that level (typically 6-8 months).

The apps we have seen typically have a longer usage time than mobile website usage, and the most successful ones result in higher order values and more items in basket when compared to mobile usage of websites.

Seize that potential!

Though a number of retailers in our sample are trying to develop their mobile marketing efforts, including via apps, the interesting thing is that visitors are already trying to interact and shop on the device of their choice – regardless of the retailers’ mobile marketing efforts or lack of them.
Customers are converting, despite the experience not necessarily being optimal and they are responding like crazy on mobile handsets to email communications marketers may have assumed they were pushing towards PCs.

What potential there is then as mobile moves from being an interesting niche, to a fully mainstream in the way that brands are experienced and product purchase decisions made. Both marketers and visitors can only gain if a more strategic and joined up approach is taken to mobile marketing.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter For Monthly Updates

Your e-mail will be kept private

Tim Leighton-Boyce | November 2010

This is fascinating stuff. Thank you for sharing specific data.

I find your observations about the role of mobile in email responses particularly interesting. Retailers might want to bear this in mind if their web site automatically routes mobile users to a dedicated 'm.' site. There can be unforeseen consequences if the email promotions are not matched on the mobile site. And abandoned basket emails may also be a problem.

The timing point is also intriguing. I think we all need to delve a lot further into when, how and why people opt to use mobile as opposed to other devices and adapt what they see to suit.

Vicky Brock | November 2010

Sorry for the delay in replying guys - have been enjoying the sun in Cyprus.

Great point Tim about the auto-routing to mobile sites potentially causing problems for email campaign effectiveness if the offers are not matched and/or campaign specific landing pages get missed.

The timing aspect is definitely a fascinating one & scope for lots more data/research there. I remember hearing the head of digital at the BBC talking about iPlayer usage and how this peaks on different devices at different times of day with - I think - mobile usage increasing post 9pm as people use BBC iplayer from their phones in bed, out on the town etc.

I'd be interested in seeing other trends.

Rob McLaughlin | November 2010

Hi Vicky,

Great post - really like that you looked at mobile apps as not just online revenue generators but also assists for both on and offline transactions.

Retailers (in fact all businesses) need to consider how individual apps/sites/mobile sites/partners/review sites fit into the consumers research journey.

I'd be really interested to know if you have seen many attempts to join up these user journeys ie. cross platform, from mobile site to app to main site etc...



Vicky Brock | November 2010

Hi Rob, We're certainly working with partners to try and do this - for example with some very bright folk in Edinburgh. The challenge (as so often is the case) is internal data silos and a fragmented approach to owning and managing the various properties, tools and objectives.

Watch this space though, I hope to have a few follow up posts on this theme ;-)that will tackle exactly what you're talking about.

Best wishes, Vicky

Stephen Budd | November 2010

I've just come across an interesting variation on theme above which is probably worth mentioning here.

I'm doing some analytics for a non-transactional destination portal who recently had a piece of PR resulting in mainstream coverage. 95% of the time, mobile accounts for between 0.5% and 3% of all traffic. On the days the story hit, mobile accounted for about 7.5% of traffic, much referred from the MSM but Facebook also contributing heavily as well.

All of which suggests to me that 'good news' needs to be handled in a very similar way to an email campaign.

Vicky Brock | November 2010

Thanks Stephen, that is a nice example. I certainly think it highlights that mobi-specific sites need to be smart enough to keep both campaign and news/event specific landing pages intact and shouldn't pare down the user experience to the extent that they are unable to find what they came for.

I also think it highlights the perennial problem of end to end campaign conversion analysis and attribution, once multiple devices are factored in. The data seems to suggest people are more likely to respond to certain marketing messages (email) and marketing activities (say PR or social) on mobile devices. Meaning that accurate attribution is not just about coming up with a cookie model that distributes touches from the same device fairly, but must also potentially factor in the fact that some of those most influential touches may also come from different devices.

Daniel Waisberg | November 2010

First of all, I think the following is the phrase I like the most in this page: "I hope to have a few follow up posts on this theme" ;-)

I just came across a research on how Gen Y access the web and I found it very enlightening. I think a really important piece of information when choosing the mobile strategy is looking at your customers... if you are a teenager website, it might make sense to invest heavily on mobile: iPhone site, iPhone App, Android App, Blackberry...

Thanks for the very interesting data and insights!

Laura | January 2012

Just came across this post - lots of great information and insight into the mobile search world.

Michael Phillips | January 2012

Very insightful and interesting stuff Vicky ! I'm in search of data showing mobile conversion rates on e-commerce sites before an optimization or App'afication of the site. It's clear that 5%+ of traffic even on non-mobile optimized sites is from mobile devices (other than tablets). It seems to go without saying that the conversions on those sessions would be much lower... so where are the case studies? I'm not finding much.

Daniel Wasberg - Thanks for the Gen Y link! great stuff

Post new comment
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture.
Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.
Online Behavior © 2012