The mobile web is driving a wave of change that has left many businesses
– especially retailers and publishers – wondering how to cope with this
new, tangible connection between the real and digital worlds.
Smartphones are everywhere and connected online and they’re only growing
in use and penetration. According to Morgan Stanley, mobile traffic
is projected to surpass desktop traffic by 2015.
Mobile web growth overtakes desktop web use in 2014.
Mobile's increasing importance and influence on the future of commerce
means companies need to start learning mobile lessons today so they can
create mobile strategies for the long term.
In order to learn those lessons and optimize for mobile users, it's
- Understand which mobile metrics to collect
- Correlate those mobile metrics with your desktop metrics (from
visits to your website from traditional desktop PCs)
- Build your own mobile performance benchmarks to compare with
So let's get started!
1. Which mobile metrics to collect?
To understand what metrics to collect, we started with the most popular
analytics tracking software, Google Analytics, and the
recommendations of Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist, Avinash
By default Google Analytics starts with eight common metrics across its
dashboards: Visits, Unique visitors, Pageviews, Pages per visit, Time on
site, Bounce rate, Conversion rate and Average order size.
Avinash Kaushik then recommends more sophistication in understanding
these 8 common metrics. He organizes them into 3 groups that reflect the
high-level purchase or conversion process of a web visitor: Acquisition,
Behaviour and Conversion.
To make it simple to remember, Kaushik calls these metrics groups the
ABCs of web analytics.
- Acquisition metrics are Visits, Unique visitors and Pageviews.
- Behaviour metrics are Pages per visit, Time on site and Bounce rate.
- Conversion metrics are Conversion rate and Average order size.
Collecting these common metrics is the starting point for learning the
lessons your mobile visitors are teaching you. But these metrics don’t
occur in a vacuum and they can be best understood in comparison and
correlation with desktop metrics.
2. Understanding mobile metrics vs. desktop metrics and building a variance model
The best way to understand mobile metrics is to start with a set of
familiar metrics – desktop metrics – and then compare them to mobile
metrics with a variance model.
A variance model in this context is a great way to compare the metrics
collected from the 2 main ways people visit your website: on their
desktop PC and on their mobile smartphone.
The following variance model was built from over 25-million combined
mobile and desktop visits between September and December 2011, sampled
from a selection of over 18,000 mobile sites powered by Mobify.
With that large data set we see overall patterns and start to draw
observations about the difference and sameness of traffic on desktop
versus traffic on mobile, using the same 8 common metrics.
1. Acquisition metrics:The first three metrics – Visits, Unique
Visitors, and Pageviews – track user acquisition from various sources
and represent the top end of the conversion funnel.
- These metrics show how many people are visiting the websites on
desktop versus on mobile.
- 78% of visits are on desktop, 22% on mobile
- 79% of unique visitors are on desktop, 21% on mobile
- 84% of pageviews are on desktop, 16% are on mobile
Desktop is the most prominent way to visit these websites and people
visiting on a desktop view slightly more pages. No surprises here. The
most interesting tracking we can do in acquisition metrics is in changes
- 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 metrics:The second three metrics – Pages / Visit, Time
on Site, and Bounce Rate – track user behavior on a site and provide
insight into whether the site is moving them towards the outcomes it’s
built to achieve.
When we compare what people are doing on the desktop site vs. mobile, we
- Visitors on desktop go slightly deeper than visitors on mobile, and
consequently stay longer on the site.
- Visitors on mobile are slightly more likely to bounce off the site,
visiting only one page and then leaving.
These results seem intuitively correct as desktop visitors are likely
seated somewhere working while visitors on mobile could be in many
different user modes, settings and contexts.
Google has an excellent framework for understanding user modes on
mobile. They classify people on mobile into the following 3 broad
modes of interaction:
- Repetitive now – tracking information on an ongoing basis that’s
time sensitive like stock quotes or sports scores.
- Bored now – seeking distraction or entertainment while waiting, such
as standing in line at the bank or on public transit.
- Urgent now – needing information about a specific situation that’s
likely location-sensitive like nearest pizza restaurant or movie
Understand the mode your visitor is in on your site can help shed light
on behavior metrics and how you ought to be addressing them over time.
For example, a Board Now visitor wants entertainment and a longer Time
on site indicates greater satisfaction of that need. In contrast, a
Repetitive now visitor may have a high bounce rate, short Time on site
and few number of Pages / visit and see that as a very successful
3. Conversion metrics:The last two metrics – Conversion Rate and
Average Order Size – track user conversions and the value of each of
those conversions. These numbers are for e-commerce sites and show how
visitors on both desktop and mobile contribute to the bottom line.
It’s interesting to note that visitors on desktop convert at more than
double the rate of visitors on mobile yet visitors on mobile have a
slightly larger average order size than visitors on desktop.
What can we learn from this?
The fact that visitors on desktop still convert at a higher rate than
visitors on mobile isn't surprising. Mobile web purchasing is relatively
new and habits take time to be established.
In addition, the mobile device is often used as an interface to digital
data while shopping in the physical world. A recently Google study
found that 79% of shoppers use their mobile device to shop with 70% of
them using it in store.
And the velocity of purchases where a consumer is aided by a mobile
device are significantly faster. Microsoft research found that
shoppers who research products on their mobile devices are ready to buy,
with 70% of them taking action within an hour, versus 70% of people on
desktop PCs taking action taken within a week.
The slightly larger (by \$1.73) average order size on mobile can be
attributed to a number of factors but in reality is so close to the
Average order size on desktop that you ought to treat them as equal,
unless you find a big difference in your specific situation.
Looking at these A-B-Cs provides a good snapshot of how a mobile website
attracts customers, moves them to consider an action, and finally gets
them to complete a desired action. The final step is building your own
mobile benchmarks and comparing them to the industry standards.
3. Build your own mobile benchmarks
To build your own benchmarks for success on mobile, refer to the table
below using the same eight metrics organized into A-B-Cs and with the
Mobile Variance Ratio in the centre column.
Add in your desktop numbers for each of the metrics and multiply by the
Mobile Variance Ratio to find the Mobile Web Benchmarks for your own
||Desktop Web numbers
||Desktop – Mobile Factor
||Mobile Web Numbers
|Time on site (secs.)
|Avg order size
(With Time on site, you will have to convert a blended measure of
minutes and seconds into a single measurement of seconds.)
Use our Mobile ROI Predictor, an online tool that automates the
calculations in the table above.
How do your numbers stack up?
More importantly, how do they stack up over time and how does that tell
you how well you’re succeeding within the framework of your overall
Track these metrics on an ongoing basis, make adjustments to your
desktop site, your mobile site and your marketing and watch for changes.
As with any business initiative, ‘micro metrics’ like the eight listed
above are to be used for tracking and tuning your program. Yet, it
should be the ‘macro metrics’ of sales, orders, revenues and profits
that drive your overall strategy and focus.
Measure the micro and make decisions on the macro. But make sure to
start measuring as soon as possible – today is as good a day as any to
Adoption of the mobile web is on a rapid growth trajectory. Once you
start tracking your common 8 metrics you’ll start to see how that rapid
growth affects your website and your business.
You’ll be able to compare it to industry standards like those found
above in the Mobile Variance Model. You’ll have data to build and refine
a long-term strategy aimed at leading your competitors and serving your
So start with tracking your mobile performance benchmarks. A handy
feature in Google Analytics (and most other analytics software) is to
have summary reports emailed to you on a regular basis. Start getting
them on a weekly basis and spending at least half an hour a week
listening to what your visitors are telling you.
They’re speaking loudly with their clicks and their dollars and now
you’re armed to hear them.