2014 was the year Internet traffic from mobile devices started to overtake traffic from desktops. But the details of that shift, and the implications they have for marketers, are only now becoming apparent.
According to Tamara Gaffney, principal at Adobe Digital Index (ADI) and author of its new “Best Of The Best Europe 2014” report, the rise of smartphones as a source of Internet traffic was one of the most significant factors impacting Web site performance last year. Its influence showed up in such Web site metrics as stickiness, consumption, and conversion rates, all of which ADI analysed by using aggregated anonymous data from 100 billion visits to more than 3,000 Web sites in Europe (Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK).
The “Best Of The Best” research compares the average performance of companies in five industry sectors across these and other metrics with the average performance of companies in the top quintile, giving marketers a set of benchmarks for their own performance. This is the second year the research has looked at Europe, allowing comparisons to be made between performance here and in the US.
The big difference Gaffney noted between Europe and the US was in traffic coming from smartphones. In Europe, the Nordic countries were the leaders, with smartphone traffic growing by an average of 8.7%. In the UK, traffic increased by 8.4%, and in Belgium and Luxembourg by 6.8%. Apart from France, with 5.6% growth, all European countries studied outperformed the US, where growth was 5.9%.
“It’s stunning to see how much faster Europe is taking up smartphone browsing,” Gaffney told CMO.com. “Europe looks to have had a much less difficult time coping with smartphone growth than the US, so US companies should be looking to Europe to see how to handle smartphone traffic.”
The UK has seen the biggest impact of this growth, with the most mobile-ready companies already recording 52% of their traffic from smartphones, and the gap widening between the top quintile and overall average. This growing gap was repeated across Europe and the US, continuing the trend from last year, and leading Gaffney to conclude that once companies have invested in creating a great mobile browsing experience, they continue to see the benefits.
“The data clearly shows that the investment you make in mobile readiness pays off for years to come, which should help marketers make the case for mobile investment,” Gaffney said. “That’s true of all countries and all industries, except telecoms.
“In the next few years, companies will be looking to manage customer experience across multiple screens, which is tough to do, but the data shows that early investment pays off.”
The impact of increasing smartphone traffic showed up in other metrics too. Gaffney suggested that it could be behind low figures for stickiness--the number of Web visits that involve more than one page of a site. The report shows that, on average, a little less than half the Web site visits in Europe involve more than one page. The UK, Germany, and Benelux countries improved on this metric compared with 2013, but France and the Nordics saw stickiness fall. The best of the best widened the gap in every country.
“Stickiness is an indication of how optimised your acquisition campaigns are and how compelling your landing pages are, Just improving it slightly could have a big impact on a company’s business,” Gaffney explained. “It’s astonishing that stickiness is still so low. It suggests a need for more personalisation and better audience targeting. It also suggests a need for mobile-optimised landing pages as more and more people arrive at Web sites via mobile search.”
Conversion rate was another metric where Gaffney detected the impact of increased smartphone use. The data showed conversion rates down in every country studied compared with 2013, and only France, Germany, and the Nordics saw the gap widen between the best and the rest. But that gap can be hugely significant--the conversion rate for the best can be almost double the average.
Gaffney also noted that conversion rates for travel and retail businesses fell year over year across Europe.
“Travel took a huge hit on conversion last year, which should alarm people in that industry,” she said. “In addition, the gap between the best companies and the rest got smaller, which suggests the best-performing companies of 2013 took their eye off the ball.”
Retail was also down, “and the gap between the best and the rest widened, so this could be where we’re seeing mobile traffic hit,” Gaffney added. “Personalisation and loyalty are the key areas for retailers to look at; they need to be bringing loyal visitors back.”
Questions of loyalty also showed up in the data for visit rate--the number of times a customer comes back to a site in a given month. As Gaffney pointed out, this metric matters because loyal customers are so much more valuable than first-timers. Here, again, she noted the impact of increased smartphone traffic.
“There’s not much improvement in visit rate this year,” she said. “There’s a slight upward trend in Europe and slight decline in the US, which, again, suggests the US is having a harder time with smartphone traffic.”
In Europe, telecommunications and financial services showed the biggest improvements, with Gaffney highlighting the latter as the industry companies wanting to build a loyal following should study.
Europe also performed well on consumption last year, measured by the amount of time spent on a Web site. The Benelux countries showed the best consumption figures, with an average of 6.53 minutes on site; the UK showed the lowest, at 6.07 minutes. But the country Gaffney highlighted as the one to study was Germany, which showed the biggest difference between the leading companies and the rest.
“In many countries, the gap between the best of the best and the masses is getting narrower, but not in Benelux or Germany,” Gaffney explained. “So companies should be looking there to see how to keep people on-site longer.”
The media and entertainment industry showed the strongest performance on consumption across Europe, where the best companies showed an average visit length of more than 10 minutes. As Gaffney pointed out, this shouldn’t be a surprise, since time spent on media sites is much more directly related to revenue that it is in other sectors.
But she also pointed out that in other sectors, longer visit times may not always be good, indicating, for example, that users are confused.
Alongside traffic coming from smartphones, ADI split out visits from tablets--and once again the story differs between Europe and the US. The report shows Europe experienced bigger growth in tablet traffic last year, at over 2.5%, compared to US growth of 1.3%. Germany showed the biggest jump, at 3.4%. At the same time, the gap between the performance of best companies and the rest continues to widen, suggesting that the argument about early investment paying off over the medium term holds true for tablets as well as smartphones.
But Gaffney warned that tablet growth may be coming to an end.
“Looking at the Q4 numbers for last year, share of traffic from tablets in Europe was flat, and in the US it was falling,” she said. “That doesn’t mean tablets will go away, they’ll just become part of the landscape.”
To download the full “Best of the Best Europe 2014” report, click here.
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Adobe Digital Insights publishes research on digital marketing and other topics of interest to senior marketing and e-commerce executives across industries. Research is based on the analysis of select, anonymous, and aggregated data from more than 5,000 companies worldwide that use the Adobe Digital Marketing Cloud to obtain real-time data and analysis of activity on websites, social media, and advertising.
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