Mobile is not online - what you need to know
Head of Communications
Jul 3, 2015
As more digital marketers shift budgets from online media to mobile, it’s critical to understand the differences between the mediums and how to best reach and engage users effectively. Whether you’re in a current business expanding activities to mobile, or trying to enter mobile with desktop experience, mobile can feel like a brand new medium. What are the differences, and what are the similarities on the platforms?
Given our years of experience as a leading mobile attribution and analytics company, we understand the key differences between online and mobile advertising – from UI and UX to tracking and e-commerce – and have provided the following overview that every marketer should know to be effective in the mobile market.
1. Mobile is a small screen
While this is the most obvious point, it’s also the starting point to feed a lot of other decisions down the line. On your website, you have plenty of gratuitous space where you can fit in extra elements, edge case features, and - as most of us know and abhor - gratuitous ads.
Mobile developers do not have this luxury. User experience (UX) elements need to be designed to conserve space. This leads not infrequently to controversial shortcuts, like the much-maligned “hamburger menu”. It also leads to most app developers being able to squeeze in a single banner ad, on occasion an interstitial, and not much more.
With fewer, and less flexible monetization opportunities, ad supply needs to be more creative on mobile - and it needs to perform a whole lot better.
2. Web measures in sessions - mobile has users
Consider the humble e-commerce company that has both a web and a mobile presence. On the web, marketers drive people ‘to go to their site”, and they track the number of visits, progress down the conversion funnel, and throw in a couple of retargeting pixels to bring them back to an abandoned cart.
Mobile apps are very different, in that the app needs to be downloaded before you can do anything. As a mobile marketer, the ads you buy drive people to the App Store; however, more work needs to be done to convert a user to hit that “Download” button. It takes a little time to download an app, it consumes a little space, and it adds another icon to a user’s home screen.
There’s a transaction cost for a user to download your app, and you’re paying for it through your CPI. Therefore, you need to get a lot more value from a user before they abandon your app. You need to streamline your processes for bringing people in, re-engage them when they forget about you, and offer an experience that lends itself well to repeat visits.
3. Cookies are to web, as user IDs are to mobile
Whenever you’re implementing user tracking on the web – whether to understand usage patterns, recurring visits or ad traffic – you’ll tend toward using a cookie. It’s the only way to uniquely identify a desktop browser, short of having access to the user’s account itself.
Cookies and device IDs serve much of the same purpose: providing a unique identifier to each user. From a technical point of view; however, they are separate. Device IDs are created by the OS at the user’s behest and provided to the developers, whereas cookies are created and accessed by a server until the moment a user decides to clear it.
The most common form of a device ID is the advertising ID, such as the IDFA or the Google Play Store Advertiser ID. This is constant across all of the apps on a device, allowing various partners in the ad space to connect and identify the same user across multiple contexts. This is unlike cookies.
Device IDs also give the user greater control over their privacy. A user can reset their advertiser ID, or block it altogether from advertisers, without affecting their user experience elsewhere. Cookies are a give-something, get-something setup. Without cookies, the user experience deteriorates.
4. Web offers tracking through links and URLs
Ever heard of a conversion tracker for web campaigns?
Probably not. This is primarily because tracking click-throughs on web is a very simple proposition: you slap a few parameters onto a URL, which the user carries with them, and your web page on the other end can read and forward these parameters.
On mobile, when a user goes through to the App Store to download your app, they completely vanish from the view of the app developer. To advertisers, the App Store is a black box into which users vanish and then promptly reappear without carrying over the context whence they came.
As you might suspect, moving arbitrary data back and forth between different apps and systems is a little more complicated than simply shifting stuff back and forth between websites. As the user no longer carries the context with them, you have to connect the dots yourself.
Conversion trackers do the sort of heavy lifting on mobile that you could do with simple URL parameters on web, explaining why these systems are part of any serious mobile analytics setup.
5. Web is highly accepted in eCommerce. Mobile is still not quite as confident
The final point to consider is that, in many ways today, web is much more mature than mobile. The sort of technologies and methods that have been garnered over years and years of web development are not yet available on mobile.
Even more-so in the e-commerce space, many users don’t want to make purchases on mobile. Would you book your plane tickets on mobile? What about buying a washing machine? Sign up for an annual newspaper subscription?
Many of us are ready to say yes, but this is often still a battle for first adopters. Companies are now trying to break into even newer verticals for e-commerce on mobile, but there’s still a long way to go.
What are the next steps?
Mobile will continue to mature and, as we do so, many of the above differentiating points will evolve.
The methods we have for UX will continue changing, until at some point, we have UX patterns that are clearly distinct from desktop and allow us to utilize the small screen space best. Tracking technology will still remain a new paradigm, but many of the needs and requirements of the modern mobile business will be catered to much better. Users will become more comfortable with the mobile format and be able to perform more actions there.
While the differences between online and mobile mediums may seem unending, the leap from online marketing to mobile is very achievable with understanding of how to navigate these differences, and making choices best designed for each platform.
We hope the following overview provided a helpful start in your move from online to mobile. Should you have any questions or feedback to share with us, we’d love to hear it.