Viewing the mobile channel as a tool for browsing and not buying could blinker advertisers to its true value in driving users towards a purchase, according to recent data from my company Struq, which specializes in cross-device retargeting.

If advertisers don’t view the market as a set of many users who own several devices, instead of just a huge group of devices, then there is a danger that mobile could be left behind in the race for conversions. A race that it actually helps advertisers to win.

Data was taken from the last 3 months of Struq’s US retargeting campaigns. Let’s start with 3 simple observations:

  • People click almost twice as much on adverts on mobile as they do on computer;
  • A user is still far more likely to purchase after clicking an ad on computer;
  • The overall return for advertisers on their advertising spend is at the same level when we compare users on mobile with those on computer.

Mobile does drive sales: 38% increase on conversion rate from 1 to 4 devices

The higher number of clicks and lower likelihood of purchase seen on mobile shows that mobile devices are used more for browsing with users clicking on ads on mobile but then not directly purchasing. However, when you take a view of the market as users who own more than one device and look at how they behave across those devices (after all 90% of users use 2 or more screens every day to browse and shop online), it becomes clear that mobile users end up purchasing on a different device.

The mobile channel holds significant indirect value along the path to purchase as it drives the user towards a purchase faster than PC: numbers show that the overall rate at which people convert to a purchase increases by 18% when 3 or more devices are involved in the path to purchase.

Mobile’s performance is growing much faster than other channels

The rate at which people go from viewing an ad and then purchasing on mobile devices seems to increase at a much faster rate than that of PC — mobile performance growing 24% faster than computer performance month on month. We believe this shows a shift in the consumer mind-set as they start to use the mobile channel to purchase more instead of switching to PC, perhaps because of advances in the spread of mobile paying technology or a higher level of trust being shown in web pages on mobile devices.

Fewer conversions, much higher value

The faster improvement of mobile’s return on ad spends is also due to the difference in users between the two channels. Mobile consumers seem to be premium shoppers: they convert less, but they are more engaged and they spend more per transaction.

Over a period of only a few months the average value per order on mobile went from being 5% lower than PC to 4% higher per purchase, with peaks of up to 25% on some large campaigns.

Diving further into the data the differences between Android and iOS users are also apparent. Android users have an average value per order that is 8% higher than that of iOS however the rate at which people convert to purchase and the return on ad spend for the advertiser of iOS users is more than double those on Android devices.

Overall the mobile channel is a very different product than standard computer display and its value needs to be assessed from different angles, not just from a straight conversion rate or Return on Ad Spend point of view. One conclusion we can draw is that only when we have a unified view of each user and all the devices do we have the key to unlocking the true value of mobile.

Sam Barnett is the CEO of Struq, a company that focuses on cross-device retargeting for ads.