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.

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