4 Differences Between Mobile and Desktop Search

How the Two Vary & How to Become an Effective Mobile Marketer

Written by Dylan Langei

It wasn't too long ago (I even remember these days) that desktops dominated the online platform market. Having a phone with a keyboard was revolutionary, let alone a touchscreen keyboard with internet access. Nowadays with the proliferation of smartphones and success of the tablet, mobile's rise has been undeniable and relentless. By the end of 2013, a full 56% of digital media consumers constituted the 'multi-platform majority' by actively using both a mobile device and a desktop.

There are four fundamental differences between how users interact with desktops and mobile devices. Companies must be aware of these differences, in order to tailor their uses of each appropriately. 

1. Rate of Growth

U.S. smartphone engagement has grown from 131 billion total minutes to 442 billion (237%), while desktop experiences a 429 billion total minutes spent (7% increase). Total mobile activity including mobile browser usage recently eclipsed 60%, as desktop accounts for the remaining 40%. Mobile browser usage has been consistently leveling out, while mobile usage is on an exponential trend. Why? Even though it might not feel like it, cell phones and data plans are getting cheaper. Plus, the majority of cell phone owners have their phone on them 24/7. Personally, I get separation anxiety if my cell phone is more than 10 feet away from me. If you're over 35 or so years old you're probably thinking I'm crazy. Hate to break it to you, but us Millenniums and Boomlets see our smartphones as an extension of our hand. This, however, is not the case with desktops. I don't know too many people carrying their laptop around all day or having a full blown panic attack because their desktop computer is out of sight. Since most cell phone owners have their smartphone on them more often than a desktop, they are more inclined to use their phone - hence, the crazy amount of growth in cell phone use.

2. Activity & Use

Mobile users are on apps 85% of the internet time spent on their phones, while desktop users typically navigate through browsers and control panels. Mobile apps have gotten so advanced that you can perform the same tasks done on desktops, just through specified app platforms. You can hail a cab (Uber), stream music (Soundcloud), watch videos (YouTube), and so much more. However, the majority of mobile app engagement comes from Social Networking and Games and Radio while desktop usage is more tailored to Search and News. This validates that mobile devices are more heavily used for entertainment and communication while desktops are utilized for more "productive" work environments.

3. Advertising Maturity

Apps have not attracted the advertising dollars its audience warrants due to it's immaturity and physical space, in comparison to desktops. Like any emerging advertising medium, it takes time for the ad buying and selling infrastructure to develop. Desktops provide a lot more physical screen space for placing ads. A sidebar of advertising is not as intrusive on a desktop as one on a small 3x3 inch smartphone. This is where native advertising, which I wrote a recent blog on, could have a huge surge in use. Since there is limited room for strategically placed paid advertising on phone screens, companies can begin sponsoring ads in the form of articles on a mobile site. That way the ad consumes less screen space, and feels more authentic. 

4. Conversion Rate

For a desktop, add to cart rate of 8.52% and actual sales conversion rate of 2.78% are higher than smartphones 4.7% and 0.8%, respectively. These are significant statistics, especially if you're an eCommerce business who is trying to implement a mobile site. Is it even worth it? Yes, it is. Why? Well these stats could begin to change in favor of mobile conversions with the recent creation of Apple Pay and various other mobile payment programs. Mobile sites are still a fairly new phenomenon, so it is very difficult to alter a customers behavior. To counteract this, mobile payment programs are insuring security of customers financial information, which is beginning to establish trust between customers and mobile pay. So, once customers become accustomed to using mobile pay as a regular transaction source, and realize the convenience, mobile purchases are projected to increase.

Starbucks's Mobile Success:

Starbucks has effectively gotten over the mobile conversion hump, if you will. After the release of their app, customers now pay for a purchase using a smartphone 7 million times a week, accounting for 16% of total transactions. Now for the important part. How did Starbucks gain so much traction and success? The answer is rewards. Who doesn't love rewards? Due to these rewards, Starbucks has gotten customers accustomed to engaging with them via mobile devices. Starbucks's main reward program, My Starbucks Rewards, allows shoppers to earn special discounts and freebies from making a purchase via their app. Why does Starbucks care so much about increasing mobile purchases? First off, it generates loyalty among customers, and also provides a rich trove of data about their most loyal customers. This data can then be leveraged to shape marketing tactics, promotions, and even store locations. Pretty damn smart right?

The good news is, you can transform your business into a mobile marketing powerhouse as Starbucks has done. To replicate Starbucks' success, you must know what your customer wants out of your app (how, when, where, and why they are interacting with the app), design an attractive and user-friendly app, provide rewards for using the app, and constantly engage with your customers via the app. If you can master these four things, like Starbucks, your business will acquire immense benefits from the exponential growth of mobile marketing.

To see more on building a great mobile site: Click here