A catchy Facebook ad has sucked you in yet again — you’re just a couple clicks away from owning another completely impractical pair of stilettos.

Except you’re on the go during this particular shopping spree; you’re navigating the site on your smartphone — and it just isn’t displaying correctly. Faced with the annoyance and inconvenience of having to zoom in and click on tiny links, and the difficulty of filling out a credit card form, you close the page in frustration — and likely forget about its existence.

This scenario is the stuff of nightmares for businesses seeking to fully optimize their websites for all screen sizes.

See also: The Anatomy of a Successful Responsive Website

In today’s society of instant gratification, people have short attention spans. They want the news in 140-character snippets, they want to shop with the click of a button — and they want infinite information accessible at their fingertips via smartphones and tablets. It’s easy for businesses to lose potential customers with a complicated, slow or inefficient mobile website. After all, if your business doesn’t have a viable mobile strategy, chances are that one of your competitors does, and that stiletto-hunting customer will go to them.

Throughout our Metrics that Matter series, we’re talking to marketers about the metrics they pay the most attention to and why. In addition to who is looking at your site, and how they’re navigating through it, it’s also important to take into account where they’re viewing your content — and mobile traffic, in particular, is a biggie.

In an increasingly mobile world, there’s more than one reason why it’s crucial to keep an eye on your website’s mobile traffic. Below, we take a look at some of the most common reasons why this metric is an important piece of your overall analytics efforts — and what you can do to optimize your marketing with this knowledge.

There’s a Reason “Responsive” Is the Buzzword of 2013

Consumers have a slew of options available when it comes to selecting mobile devices. Do I opt for the lightweight and compact 4″ screen, or the bulkier but higher-resolution “phablet”? The same choice arises when it comes to tablets — Windows Surface, Galaxy Note or iPad mini? Decisions, decisions. With the magnitude of options on the market today, optimizing a site for each of the myriad screen sizes and operating systems is enough to make any marketer or developer’s head spin.

Responsive design is increasingly becoming the go-to solution for businesses seeking site optimization across the mobile board without entering the daunting world of developing a full-fledged app for each device. (For more on the app-vs.-website debate, read on here.)


Responsive website

Image: Flickr, rossmerrittphotography

The need for a responsive site depends upon your specific business or website, as well as budget. It may well be worth it to “go responsive” if your site is heavy on visuals, videos, products or “m-commerce” — and mobile traffic analysis can help you make these tough decisions. On which devices are users accessing your site? Which operating systems are the most common among your site traffic? Are more users visiting your site on smartphones, or on tablets? What is the overall ratio of mobile to desktop traffic? You can glean much of this information through analytics software or programs.

“Understanding devices and associated technology features is necessary for design purposes. We determine what our sites and our emails need to be designed for from a size, browser and operating perspective. [Mobile reports] allow us to provide the right experience for our consumers,” says Cathy Gribble, associate director of digital analytics for Team One.

That being said, responsive isn’t always the end all, be all of mobile strategy. In-depth analysis and understanding of customer behavior is another factor to consider.

“Mobile is on every single marketer’s agenda for 2014. One of the big mistakes a lot of brands today still make is that they tack on mobile as an after-thought to their larger marketing strategy — but an even bigger mistake for brands looking to get their mobile feet wet is putting all their eggs into the responsive design basket an even bigger mistake for brands looking to get their mobile feet wet is putting all their eggs into the responsive design basket.,” says Michael Blumenfeld, consultant for US Financial/Insurance Services at Maxymiser. “What brands need to first do is understand the psychology behind why and how users think and act on each device.”

Consumers behave different on smartphones and tablets, which have differing functionalities and capabilities. Marketers need to analyze behavior and experiences across the entire purchase funnel to understand the best move for web or app design.”Responsive design doesn’t allow for such deep testing of every single experience within a brand’s website or mobile site,” says Blumenfeld. “That means marketers must be cognizant of the different layouts and circumstances surrounding consumers’ use of websites and mobile sites.”

In summary: Take a multi-faceted approach to responsive design. Perhaps not all businesses need to invest in a site that flawlessly translates across every device on the market — but with 17.4% of all global web traffic coming through mobile (a 6%+ increase since 2012), it’s surely a major consideration.

Notice Emerging Patterns

When and how users view your content on mobile affects a number of decisions — everything from the length of your videos to where you place certain content. Tracking behavioral patterns and page flow among mobile users informs your decisions for many of these adjustments.


mobile website

Todd LaBeau, vice president of digital for Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, outlines a scenario: “Say you notice that consumers tend to open recipes primarily on their tablets and look at store locators more on phones. Then, you notice that second-time visitors end up back on the same recipe pages around dinnertime. You can start to understand how people are using and connecting to your products and in what order. Once you do that, you can start to test how you can influence their behaviors. Maybe the mobile phone people get coupons offered alongside store locations, while tablet users get additional recipe tips or product info, leading to up- or cross-sales. Just by taking a few minutes to look at mobile and screen size segments, you can identify and expand relevant sales opportunities for your customers.”

Noting the metrics surrounding certain behaviors — such as time spent navigating the site or watching videos — also provides valuable insight into how to tailor content to smartphone and tablet users. Perhaps videos should be front-and-center on your more “lean-back” tablet properties, while directions and location information should be prominent on the smartphone app.

Tweaking Advertising for Mobile

Knowing how your consumers behave on mobile should also heavily influence your mobile advertising strategy — where should your brand promote itself, and what message should these ads send?

Blumenfeld explains a proper strategy, using a distributor of online education services and content with an integrated, omnichannel marketing approach across TV, web, mobile and social as an example. This is a niche company, he says, and they’re not looking to drive check-outs or purchase, they’re looking for lead capture. “For this brand’s marketing team, the big focus should be testing and optimizing the mobile site to drive an increase in lead captures. Removing irrelevant content will prove useful in making sure mobile users are seeing the right content at the right times on the right devices and platforms. The big lesson here is to not try to stuff 10 pounds of information into a two-pound bag, The big lesson here is to not try to stuff 10 pounds of information into a two-pound bag,” says Blumenfeld.


Tablet advertisement

As with ad strategy, mobile traffic analysis is also extremely useful when devising email marketing campaigns.

Alexis Anderson, director of marketing & partnerships for PureWow reinforces the importance of a mobile email-marketing strategy, citing key statistics from recent studies. First, nearly 50% of unique email opens are mobile, according to Experian Marketing Services, and this number is only expected to grow. Another “sobering” statistic from MailChimp found that 69% of mobile users delete emails without reading if they’re not optimized for mobile, and another 18% said they would go so far as to actually unsubscribe.

The moral? Make sure your email newsletters are optimized. You can find 32 responsive email templates here.

Data Isn’t Black and White

When it comes to metrics, and mobile metrics in particular, it’s important to note that the entire analysis process is more akin to a jigsaw puzzle than a linear progression.

Businesses and marketers must take the data from mobile traffic and view it in the larger paradigm of their comprehensive analytical strategy. For example, if your site has a high bounce rate — but only for mobile users — this is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps these users are simply accessing your site for comparison purposes, and they may be jumping on their browsers at home later to actually purchase. Context is key.

“We typically find that mobile devices have a lower conversion rate, higher bounce rate and generally lower levels of engagement. If you compare this to a desktop asset, you might think that the mobile site is failing — but what is really happening is that it is meeting the needs of the user at the time. For example, ecommerce sites are frequently used for navigation to a store or as an in-store price comparison tool. The person might not in fact convert on the site, but they are very well converting in the store –- or even better, leaving a competitor’s store to come to yours,” says Jon Gibs, vice president of analytics at Huge.

In future Metrics that Matter articles, we’ll be examining traffic by device in further detail — including screen size, operating system, screen resolution, browser type and more

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