Why Some Online Retailers May Be Hugely Undervaluing Mobile ROI

If you’re a multi-channel retailer, you likely already have a strong understanding of how mobile directly influences revenue.

However, it’s likely that somewhere in the back of your mind you’re also aware that as more and more customers move between devices to complete a goal, you are left with an increasingly incomplete picture on how mobile is supporting overall revenue of the company – not just through direct sales on devices.

And with such an incomplete picture, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get a handle on the overall ROI of mobile initiatives.

In cases like this, if you’re not accounting for indirect revenue from the mobile ‘assist’, you are running the risk of dramatically undervaluing your mobile channels.

In this post, I’ll help you identify where the gaps in your mobile measurement might be, and propose a framework for thinking about indirect revenue from these channels.

Understanding the problem: counting mobile ‘assists’

Since 90% of users move between devices to achieve a goal, it can be extremely difficult to track an individual’s behaviour leading up to a sale.

For example, say a customer opens an email on their smartphone on the bus to work, then checks out a related product on their tablet during the day, and finally makes a purchase on their home computer.

In this sense, the mobile experience has played a strong part in the customer’s purchase from their desktop computer.

Yet unless the customer is logged in across all devices, there’s no way for you to attribute their activity on mobile.

Take the basketball analogy: While only one player can score a basket, a stats team is usually in the background counting all the people who were involved in each point scored, including each pass and assist.

But imagine if the stats team ignored all data outside of who was scoring points. Players that continually set up assists would likely be undervalued because of their apparent poor performance. Coaches would only focus on developing players who could score points, which is not necessarily the best recipe for a successful team.

In other words, without all the right data it can look like the mobile channel has a low value because of its relatively low conversion rates.

To understand how mobile commerce fits into the bigger picture, we need to look at the team, how it works together and both the scorers of the points and the teammates who provide the assists.

Most retailers are already tracking the direct revenue from their mobile website – it scores when a customer buys directly on their mobile device, which is easy to see.

But your mobile website also provides many different assists – like when someone uses your store locator to find the nearest outlet, emails a gift idea to a friend and shares their latest purchase or object of desire on social media.

These things likely fall outside of your attribution model, and it’s easy to overlook the contributions they have in the indirect path towards revenue.

So how do you account for the mobile assists? Short of interviewing your customers, it’s incredibly hard to establish a causal link between a mobile site and mobile-influenced revenues.

While there’s no perfect system yet, one thing you can try is…

A partial solution: Give your customers a reason to be logged in across devices

When customers are logged in, you get a better understanding of how they interact with different devices to fulfill goals. This will enable you to move away from looking at pageviews, events and visit analytics and instead get a single view of the customer.

One strategy is to allow customers to save products to an untimed cart or wish-list. You can also provide a history of items that a customer has recently viewed. Both options make it easy for them to move between devices, while staying logged in.

You’ll also need to make sure that signing in and registering a new account is as frictionless as possible on mobile devices.

It won’t give you the full picture, but you’ll have a much better understanding of how customers interact with your site as they move between devices.


“Mobile is a new, innovative, and radically disruptive technology. Of course it’s ahead of measurement.
But brands still need to go where consumers are heading, even while a holistic data picture is lagging behind.”

— Bob Goodman, SVP and Director of User Experience, Arnold Worldwide

Understanding how mobile drives direct revenue is easy.

Understanding the indirect revenue it drives is much, much harder.

Unfortunately, there’s no a bullet proof model you can use to quantify indirect revenue from mobile. However, as you keep watching mobile traffic rise, continue to think about the end-to-end customer experience.

When considering how to invest resources that will make the customer experience better, make sure you consider the impact that mobile initiatives might have in a customer’s journey across devices.

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