The mobile web has become mainstream, not all websites have kept pace with the eager throngs of mobile shoppers. After all, mobile traffic is projected to surpass desktop traffic by 2015 — the stakes couldn’t be higher for optimizing your site for mobile.
When a mobile user reaches your site, what is his or her experience? Is it as smooth as it should be? Are there images that won’t load? Text that’s too small or too big? Do users have to scroll right, then down, left and back up to find everything?
Never assume your traditional website renders well on mobile displays. A missed opportunity can cause brands to lose out on key opportunities and relationships.
As with any marketing effort, gathering metrics is the best way to determine what needs work when it comes mobile site performance.
Understanding the ABCs of Mobile Metrics
Before you can gather metrics, you need to know what to measure. Let’s start with the most popular analytics tracking software: Google Analytics.
Google’s digital marketing evangelist Avinash Kaushik organizes metrics into three groups (acquisition, behavior and conversion), which reflect the high-level purchase or conversion process of a web visitor.
By tracking each set of metrics for both mobile and desktop, overall traffic patterns emerge. You’ll begin to understand mobile performance in comparison to desktop performance.
1. Acquisition: The following three metrics track user acquisition from various sources. These represent the top end of the conversion funnel. Check all metrics across both mobile and desktop use.
Visits: How many people visit your website from either mobile or desktop?
Unique visitors: How many different people visited your website?
Pageviews: How many times was a page on your website viewed?
When comparing mobile and desktop performance, it’s important to realize that desktop is still the most prominent way to view websites. Therefore, people visiting on a desktop will view slightly more pages.
The most interesting tracking you can do is to observe how acquisition metrics change over time. Is mobile traffic growing on your site? Is overall traffic growing on your site? How is the ratio of mobile to desktop traffic changing?
2. Behavior: The next three metrics track user behavior, providing insight into whether a site moves users toward the outcomes it was built to achieve.
Pages per visit: How many pages are viewed during a single visit ob mobile vs. desktop?
Time on site: How much time does each visitor spend on your mobile website? On your desktop site?
Bounce rate: How quickly do mobile/desktop users turn away when they hit the site?
When we compare behavior metrics on the desktop site vs. mobile site, we see that visitors on desktop tend to delve slightly deeper than visitors on mobile and, consequently, stay longer on the site. Additionally, visitors on mobile are slightly more likely to bounce off the site (a “bouncer” is a visitor that visits only one page and then leaves).
Google explains how to understand user modes on mobile. The company classifies mobile users into three categories of interaction.
Repetitive now: These people track time-sensitive information on an ongoing basis, like stock quotes or sports scores.
Bored now: These people seek distraction or entertainment while waiting in line at the bank or on public transit, for example.
Urgent now: These people need location-sensitive information about a specific situation, such as the nearest pizza restaurant or the next available movie showtimes.
Understanding your mobile visitor’s “user mode” sheds more light on your behavior metrics over time. For example, a “bored now” visitor wants to be entertained; therefore, longer time on site indicates a satisfaction of that need. By contrast, a “repetitive now” visitor can have a high bounce rate, short time on site and low number of pages per visit, but it’s still a successful interaction.
3. Conversion: The last two metrics – conversion rate and average order size – track user conversions and the value of each of those conversions. These numbers show how visitors on both desktop and mobile contribute to an ecommerce site’s bottom line.
Conversion rate: How many visitors take the next step, whether to purchase, register or request more information?
Average order size: For ecommerce conversions, what’s the average dollar amount per order?
Most sites typically find that visitors on the desktop convert at a higher rate than mobile visitors. This is to be expected, as mobile web purchasing is relatively new and habits take time to establish.
Of course, mobile can still play a large role in the purchase process even if the transaction isn’t actually made on mobile. A recent Google study found that 79% of shoppers use their mobile device to shop, and 70% of them use mobile in-store.
Additionally, the velocity of purchases is significantly faster when a consumer is aided by a mobile device. Microsoft research found that shoppers who research products on their mobile devices are ready to buy; 70% take action within an hour, but 70% of people on desktop PCs take action within a week.
Impact of the Tablet
Any analysis of mobile performance has to factor in the tablet, which has quickly emerged as the third digital screen in consumers’ lives, in between desktops and smartphones. While smartphones are used on the go, at work and throughout the day and evening, the tablet is a lean back device frequently used at night.
What does this mean for your metrics? For starters, don’t consider all mobile devices equal. A shopper or searcher on a smartphone has markedly different needs and motivations than their counterpart who uses a tablet.
When you break your mobile metrics down between smartphone and tablet usage, you may notice trends. Perhaps tablet users visit more pages, spend more time on each page, and convert at a higher rate than smartphone users.