I recently researched the impact of mobile-optimized expe­ri­ences on mobile vis­i­tor engage­ment. To com­pare mobile usage between the “mobile opti­mized” and “stan­dard” ver­sions of a web prop­erty, I cal­cu­lated key engage­ments per visit on both the stan­dard and mobile web­sites for 15+ pop­u­lar devices includ­ing the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid, HTC Nexus One, Palm Pre, Black­Berry Storm 2, and Nokia N97. I also ana­lyzed impact on the iPad which I’ve detailed at the bot­tom of this post.

Tip: For your own analy­sis you should use a engage­ment or con­ver­sion met­ric that dri­ves rev­enue for your business—ad views or page views for media com­pa­nies, rev­enue for retail­ers, etc. You should also ensure you are accu­rately iden­ti­fy­ing mobile vis­its and vis­i­tors. CNAME/First Party Cookie imple­men­ta­tions are a must here—for more info, read Top 5 Mobile Imple­men­ta­tion Gotchas.

Pro­vide Mobile-Optimized Expe­ri­ences for Mobile Users

The results of my analy­sis shouldn’t sur­prise you—mobile-optimized expe­ri­ences pro­duced an aver­age 75% higher rate of engage­ments per visit for mobile users. Such sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in engage­ment for mobile vis­i­tors help jus­tify invest­ment in mobile-optimized chan­nels but it’s only the first step.

Fix Trou­ble Spots in Mobile Channels

Now you’re feel­ing good about the gains from pro­vid­ing a mobile-optimized expe­ri­ence, it’s time to make addi­tional improve­ments. Com­par­ing total engage­ments per visit for both your stan­dard site and your mobile site (or app) will help you dis­cover break points in the mobile expe­ri­ence. For the data set I ana­lyzed, total engage­ments per visit were 20% lower for the mobile site than for the stan­dard site. The gap rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity to improve the user expe­ri­ence on the mobile site and cre­ate real gains in engage­ment and con­ver­sion. By drilling one level deeper to spe­cific steps in your key engage­ment or con­ver­sion process, you can dis­cover user drop off points.


In the mock-up data above, nearly the same per­cent­age of total site vis­its result in a “lead ini­ti­a­tion” for the stan­dard and mobile sites but fall­out between ini­ti­a­tion and com­ple­tion is much greater for the mobile site. In this exam­ple, fine tun­ing the lead ini­ti­a­tion page on the mobile opti­mized site so it con­verts as well as the same page on the stan­dard site could increase mobile leads com­pleted by 3X!

Tar­get Expe­ri­ences to Spe­cific Devices Where Appropriate

By cre­at­ing mobile opti­mized chan­nels for your cus­tomers and then fine tun­ing those expe­ri­ences, you can pro­duce very sub­stan­tial improve­ments in engage­ment in con­ver­sion; but what hap­pens when a new cat­e­gory of device is thrown into the mix? A lot of mar­keters are con­sid­er­ing how to han­dle new tablet devices like the Apple iPad or the HP Slate. Mar­keters are ask­ing ques­tions like, “should iPad vis­i­tors receive the stan­dard site, the mobile-optimized site, or a third fla­vor cus­tomized for tablets?”

The answer to this ques­tion and oth­ers will vary depend­ing on busi­ness model, indus­try, and many other fac­tors; how­ever, these types of busi­ness deci­sions should be dri­ven by ana­lyt­ics. For fun, I included vis­its from iPad users in the dataset I ana­lyzed to deter­mine the uplift pro­duced from mobile-optimized expe­ri­ences. The results of my analy­sis may sur­prise you—mobile-optimized expe­ri­ences pro­duced an aver­age 15% lower rate of engage­ments per visit for iPad users. For this par­tic­u­lar set of data, the cus­tomer would be bet­ter not redi­rect­ing iPad users to the mobile ver­sion of the site.

While the dataset pro­duced by vis­i­tors using an iPad was small and ulti­mately may not rep­re­sent the pop­u­la­tion after launch, engage­ment and con­ver­sion met­rics for the iPad and other tablet devices should be closely mon­i­tored to ensure users are receiv­ing an opti­mal expe­ri­ence. By tar­get­ing spe­cific expe­ri­ences to spe­cific devices like the iPad, you may be able to attain an addi­tional increase to key user actions.

Here’s some addi­tional resources you can lever­age to ana­lyze the impact of the iPad on your online initiatives.

Sam­ple iPad User Agent—use­ful for updat­ing mobile site redi­rec­tion rules:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.21.10 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.4 Mobile/7B317 Safari/531.21.10

iPad Ana­lyt­ics Sup­port—Omni­ture pro­vides both mea­sure­ment and report­ing sup­port for the iPad: iPad App Mea­sure­ment & iPad Mobile Device Report­ing (press release)


iPad Site­Cat­a­lyst App—updated ver­sion of the app opti­mized for the iPad:Site­Cat­a­lyst App for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (Ver­sion 1.2)

Home­work assign­ment—browse to the mobile reports in your Site­Cat­a­lyst report­ing envi­ron­ment and search for “iPad” to see if any­one with a “pre-release” device has vis­ited your web­sites or apps.


Ed--thanks for this as I've been using this 75% stat in recent presentations to clients. However the last 2 times I've shared it I've been asked what it actually means and how you were defining engagement. Any chance you could contact me offline?


Ed- this is very interesting however it would be helpful to better understand your methodology. First you state that mobile-optimized experiences average 75% higher rate of engagements per visit for mobile users. But the next paragraph states "For the data set I analyzed, total engagements per visit were 20% lower for the mobile site".

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

Dave--i looked at multiple properties so the measure of engagement was different depending on the site. For retail, the measure was revenue per visit, for media, the measure was page views per visit, etc. You may also be interested in this follow-on post: iPad Users Twice as Engaged on Desktop Websites.

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

Dave-to clarify, mobile users are more engaged when they receive mobile-optimized experiences than when they receive a standard desktop experience. However, mobile users still have lower engagement rates when compared to desktop users. This demonstrates two things: (1) providing mobile optimized experiences is good (2) there's still lots of room to improve mobile optimized experiences (of course analytics play an important role in identifying trouble spots, etc.)