Putting some numbers on the importance of mobile devices

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about the importance of mobile devices (i.e. smartphones) in engineering and scientific marketing. Some companies have been spending money on a better ‘mobile experience’ for customers and prospects with no more than a gut feeling that it’s a good investment. Others – possibly because they know there’s no chance of improving how they do things – ignore the problem, by claiming: “Who’d buy our expensive technology on a mobile phone?” Most are quite aware of how daft this comment is, I suspect.

The situation is not helped by the hype. Barely a day goes by where I don’t read an article containing some incredible statistic about mobile device use on the web. As ever, it’s of dubious relevance to us in engineering and scientific marketing. But there are some things which can’t be disputed:

1. A lot, perhaps even the majority, of email is read on mobile devices. This includes your email marketing to prospects and your correspondence with customers. These emails will contain links to your website, and if your website is unreadable or unusable on a mobile phone, it’s a blow to the heart of your sales efforts. Every time.

2. Mobile use is growing in importance for all of us, even if you don’t want to believe it. You cannot hide behind a gut feeling that any real prospects in your sector would be viewing your website at their desk, on a large screen. Just because an article claiming that two-thirds (or whatever) of web viewing is done on mobile devices clearly doesn’t apply to our markets, doesn’t mean that there’s not a message in there for us.

So I’ve decided to look at the numbers. I delved into the website analytics for a dozen engineering and scientific companies, and looked at the mobile device visitor proportions for December 2015. As you’d probably predict, the totals are lower than the headlines from the consumer sector might suggest. But they’re higher than a lot of companies want to acknowledge:

Mobile Traffic on B2B Websites - some examples

I chose some sites with reasonably large traffic, some targeted worldwide, others just in the UK. I’ve compared the figures with the same sites for December 2014. You’ll notice that as I mentioned earlier in the week, it’s not uncommon for websites to have their traffic figures static or falling nowadays. But for 10 out of 12 sites, mobile visits continue to rise inexorably, and have now reached 15%. That’s a lot of potential custom. Or putting it another way, are you spending 15% of your advertising budget sending people to a site which they’re immediately not going to bother with?

Also note that views on tablets remain around 5%. Many people think that even if their website is unusable on a mobile device, it will be fine on a tablet, because that’s just the same as a desktop PC, right? Unfortunately, no, that’s not right. The tablet experience, like mobile devices, relies on touch navigation, not mouse clicking. So if your site has horrible pop-out menus with dozens of closely-spaced items, your tablet users are going to be as irritated with you as your customers with smartphones.

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