Rise of Mobile

There is no escaping the fact that mobile commerce has been experiencing considerable growth. With more advanced devices being launched into the market, coupled with better connectivity, and shifting consumer behaviour, the way people access the internet is changing.

With smartphone penetration standing at 64% in the UK and nearly one in three page views originating from a mobile device (Comscore), mobile commerce is an increasingly important channel for online retailers. Working with a number of the leading advertisers in the UK we have witnessed considerable growth in mobile commerce across the network in the past couple of years. With more consumers turning to mobile and advertisers looking to benefit from the opportunities the channel provides, we have seen an increasing number of publishers developing their mobile offerings to take advantage of these trends.

Mobile activity accelerates

The share of mobile traffic across the Affiliate Window network of 1,600 advertisers has increased from 2% to 19% in the past 24 months. If we strip tablet devices from this equation, traffic has grown from 1.8% to 11%. A staggering one in every nine clicks currently originates from a mobile phone. Looking at transactions generated through a mobile device, this increased sevenfold from January 2011 to December 2012. Again, stripping out tablets to focus purely on handsets, this increased from 1.5% – 6% of all sales being generated through mobile handsets.

With such a significant volume of traffic now stemming from new devices and platforms, it is increasingly important for advertisers to provide their visitors with a fully optimised mobile experience. Landing on the desktop version of the advertiser’s site can make the transaction process a fiddly affair, having to manually resize the screen to view and select products. A fully optimised mobile site can provide an intuitive checkout process and we have seen conversion rates and average order values increase significantly through having a mobile optimised site in place. For one large retailer we have seen average order values that are 10% higher when compared to landing on the desktop version of the site through a mobile handset. This is alongside improved conversion rates: a win-win situation.

Bridging the gap between online and offline

As well as driving sales through mobile devices, advertisers can also take of the ability of publishers to drive traffic in store. Just as incentivised traffic has dominated online, publishers’ ability to innovate has also seen them lead the way in mobile. Prior to advertisers optimising their mobile presence, forward thinking publishers looked at ways to generate sales through utilising the technology offered by mobile devices. Advertisers with an offline presence have been able to drive footfall to stores by offering a nominal incentive for doing so. Once in store, advertisers are able to target these consumers with special offers and up sell additional products. They are also able to tie in elements of social sharing to expand the reach of the promotional campaign. Advertisers with a multi-channel offering are starting to grasp the various facets of mobile marketing and start piecing them together through the performance channel.

Devices driving growth

Looking at the devices that are driving growth in m-commerce, Apple has been the dominant force. Focusing purely on mobile handsets, throughout 2012 almost six in  ten salesthrough handsets originated from the iPhone with Android lagging behind with just under 30% of handset transactions.  Although Android is currently someway behind the iPhone, it is typically the driving force behind the growth of smartphone penetration.

While Apple users are commonly early adopters, Android handsets are typically the standard option when upgrading. Across the network we have seen the share of traffic through Android devices grow at a much higher rate than the iPhone, although it is important to note that this has been from a much smaller base. In the coming months we expect to see the traffic through each of these device types converge even more with Android possibly toppling the iPhone by the middle of the year.

The importance of affiliate tracking

With such a significant volume of traffic being driven by mobile handsets, it is essential that advertisers are integrating affiliate tracking. It is critical that publishers are rewarded for the sales they drive, otherwise advertisers will miss out on the opportunities presenting themselves through the performance channel. While we are seeing a number of advertisers integrating tracking, there is still an alarming number that are neglecting the importance of it.

Developing a mobile optimised version of the site is all well and good, but by omitting the nuts and bolts advertisers are unable to take advantage of the opportunities available through the channel. In many instances, it can be more detrimental to have a mobile optimised version of the site without tracking than not to have a mobile site at all. Cashback sites for example are able to generate significant volumes, however, without tracking in place sales through mobile handsets will not track. Where an advertiser will not track, an interruptive message is served to inform the consumer this is the case. This could lead to the consumer not purchasing at all or opting to purchase from a competitor that has tracking in place. Either way it also stands as a poor customer experience of a retailer’s brand.

With more advertisers embracing m-commerce and connectivity becoming increasingly better it is widely anticipated that m-commerce will continue to go from strength to strength. We can realistically expect around 30-40% of traffic coming through mobile devices by the end of the year. While this increase will predominantly be through tablet devices as consumers increasingly turn to these to access the internet, we can also expect a significant increase in traffic through handsets. It is essential that advertisers are primed to take advantage of these trends.

Matt Swan

Matt Swan


Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window.