Posted On 01 Nov 2019
Marama Carmichael

We’ve all heard the ancient proverb “Use the right tool for the right job”. In the present day, recent studies have revealed that this proverb is reflected in the manner in which consumers use various devices to search for and make online purchases. StatCounter, a web analytics company, compared the popularity of searches among desktops, mobile phones, and tablet searches. Desktops came in at 45.53%, mobile phones 50.71%, and tablets came in third at 3.76%. Looking at the issue in sheer numbers, it would appear that mobile devices win the popularity contest by a nose. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

While other studies reveal slightly different results, the consensus is that mobile devices enjoy a slight lead over desktops in general. However, there’s little doubt that mobile devices are driving more and more traffic. These numbers play a big role in where advertisers place their precious ad dollars. And this is where things get a little murky from a marketing perspective.

Desktop vs Mobile Devices

There is a certain logic in concluding that, since more folks are spending more of their search time on mobile devices, they are putting more of their consumer dollars there as well. That would be good news for marketers – if it were true. After all, mobile-based CPC’s cost 24% less than its desktop counterpart and enjoys a 40% higher CTR. What could be wrong with that? The problem arises when you analyse the different ways in which consumers apply their device to the task at hand.

The average time people spend at a site on a desktop device is higher than on a mobile device. Additionally, the bounces rate for a mobile device is 45% while the corresponding rate for a desktop is 38% (source: Stone Temple). This is in spite of the fact that average page views per visit in the US increased by 21% for mobiles in 2016-2017. Yet, 65% of all digital media time is spent on mobile devices, according to Business2Community. To add to the confusion, while consumers now spend nearly 70% of their media time on mobile, desktop accounts for 80% of the dollars spent online (source: Marketing Land).

The take away here is that, in spite of the mobile phones’ high penetration and dominant usage in the marketplace, desktops still rule the roost in conversions. So why is there this discrepancy between desktop and mobile conversions? It all goes back to using the right tool for the right job.

Surfing the Web on Mobile Phones

According to Google, 64% of smartphone shoppers heavily rely on mobile to research products and services before deciding to make a purchase. Generally, mobile users are on the go when using the device. People reach for their mobile devices during R