OPINION: Illusory line separates mobile traffic and static traffic

20 Jul 2013

Gareth Dunlop, owner of user-experience consultancy Fathom

“They have the internet on computers now,” cartoon character Homer Simpson quipped in the late Nineties. How we laughed at the ludicrous idea that it would be anywhere else. However, as with so many of his utterances, perhaps there was latent genius and prophesy in his words.

It’s not just that the internet is mobile and getting more mobile; mobile is changing our relationship with the internet.

As often highlighted in this column, just as the line which separates the online and offline world in the minds of our customers is blurry or more likely fictional, the line by which we separate mobile and fixed internet access is also blurry. We are aware that more than 60pc of web traffic to the London 2012 Olympics web platforms was on mobile devices, we know that more than 50pc of social media traffic on social networks across Europe is from mobile devices, we observe that few businesses now run websites with less than 20pc mobile traffic.

However, fundamental to understanding this traffic is to recognise that invariably the users making the mobile visits and the users making the fixed-device visits are the same people. They are just at different stages of their customer journey.

Mobile vs static

Perhaps the following scenarios illustrate how illusory the mobile division is.

I am watching TV while sitting in my armchair, fixed firmly in the couch-potato position. A film comes on and I know that actor from something else. So using my iPhone I Google the show which is currently on to find out the actor’s name and then follow the lead to see other shows he was in and eventually I find out that he was that guy in that other show. The transaction was carried out on a mobile device in a static environment. Mobile traffic or static traffic?

I have a meeting on the other side of town and because I’m unsure about the flow of traffic, I plan to head over with loads of time to spare. I know there is a Starbucks near the meeting so I decide to get there about an hour before, have some lunch in Starbucks and then go on to the meeting. I finish lunch in good time and decide to clear up some email via Starbucks’ Wi-Fi, on my laptop. The transaction was carried out on a static device in a mobile environment. Mobile traffic or static traffic?

More important than the answer to the theoretical question about how we classify the traffic is the certainty that users expect you to meet their changing needs across devices and across levels of mobility.

Snacking vs digesting

Two big themes emerging in mobile can help us take a user-centred approach to our marketing planning. They are snacking and digesting and both are driven by the users’ desire to manage time.

Snacking describes the idea that users on the move or users on smaller devices simply snack on content, and the content they like they decide to feast on at a later time.

Digesting expresses the concept that users on the move or users on smaller devices like to get content digested in summary form at regular intervals, which brings them quickly and easily up to speed with content published which they may have missed. If they like some of this content they may decide to feast on it later.

We have never been emotionally closer to a single electronic device than we are to our mobile phones. Five years ago, marketers talked about a set of keys, a wallet and a phone as being the three items we wouldn’t leave the house without; in five years’ time they will talk of the mobile as the single item we can’t live without. The device previously used for phone calls and internet activity is highly likely to provide us with access previously provided by keys and electronic payments formerly managed by our cash and cards.

According to Mobify, mobile accounts for 31pc of all website traffic in the UK, the same as the US, but behind Brazil at 40pc and Australia at 47pc. Mobile commerce grew by 254pc in 2010 and 300pc in 2011, according to IMRG.

The nature of our relationship with the digital world is changing and mobile is driving it mainstream.

Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop owns and runs Fathom, a user-experience consultancy which helps ambitious organisations get the most from their website and internet marketing by viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. Specialist areas include user testing, usability and customer journey planning, web accessibility and integrated online marketing. Clients include Fáilte Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, University of Ulster, Ogilvy, and Savile Row.

Gareth Dunlop runs Fathom, a UX consultancy that helps organisations get the most from their digital products.