The mobile share of conversions is up 28% in the last year, underscoring the swift transition from desktop to mobile. Telecom had the highest proportion of mobile conversions, at 37% (buying new plans and devices), followed by 35% for retail (making a purchase), 22% for auto (finding a local dealer, requesting more information, configuring a car or travel) and 20% in travel (booking a hotel, flight or car reservation).
The findings are based on analysis of more than 500 billion online ad impressions served by AOL Networks between 2012 and 2013, and 100 million “conversion events” across all devices -- mobile phones, PCs and tablets.
Mobile’s 31% share of conversions “is much higher than what I thought it was going to be, and much higher than what marketers think it’s going to be,” said Chad Gallagher, director of mobile at AOL Networks. He suggested that proportion was about twice what might generally have been expected.
However, the study leaves out categories like CPG, not considered as mobile-friendly as telecom and travel.
Where are those conversions coming from? Almost two-thirds (65%) are happening on tablets, driven by the iPad, which accounted for a full 85%. Looking at smartphone platforms, conversions were split evenly between the iPhone and Android-powered devices.
The results also corroborate prior studies indicating that users are more likely to make purchases on tablets than smartphones. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of tablet owners will buy something on their devices this year, compared to 39% of smartphone users, according to eMarketer. That gap is expected to grow to 72% versus 27% by 2017.
The AOL research further supports the counterintuitive finding that a growing share of mobile activity is happening at home versus out-of-home. The study found that three-quarters of all mobile ad impressions were viewed within the home, and a quarter of all digital time is spent at home on tablets or cell phones. That finding runs counter to the conventional image of the mobile user in on-the-go mode.
“The reality is, it’s mom, at night, with the TV on. When you change that image, it changes everything about how you think about mobile,” said Gallagher. He added that marketers still often run desktop-centric campaigns, with a mobile buy tacked on. But if they’re focused on the PC instead of mobile screens, he suggested they’re simply throwing away money.
The AOL research comes on the heels of Nielsen data released Monday indicating nearly all (95%) of tablet shoppers and 72% of smartphone shoppers who make a purchase with their device do so at home. Given that mobile is becoming more similar to desktop use, Gallagher expressed skepticism about the value of location-based marketing efforts.
“We fundamentally believe that is being driven by companies that have put a stake in the ground on location marketing being the key to mobile. The fact that 25% of all impressions are being shown at a mobile device at home, and a third of all conversions are happening on a mobile device -- that’s real business,” he said.
The problem for many marketers is that they don’t have the ability to track conversions across all platforms. “You need to ensure that every single technology can run across all platforms or you’re missing out on a third of your potential business,” said Gallagher.
AOL plans to release further findings from the data set in partnership with UVA. Gallagher is an alumnus, along with Advertising.com founder Scott Ferber.