Mobile Consumer & Mobile User Issues for Australian SME Ecommerce Owners
“While everyone is going crazy about mobile maybe it is time to say “whoa” hold on a minute”
There’s plenty of advice for your online retail business in Australia from those with a smartphone in their hand they’re constantly interacting with while telling you what you need to be doing, but not there’s not too many around who know what it is like to do business like you’ve been doing over a number of decades.
Everything is not rosy with mobile and ecommerce, and this advice from an experienced marketer who became digital marketer as digital formed could be the first piece you’ve read that is not telling you to rush off and spend more marketing money related to smartphone users.
Before we talk about what you need to do as an ecommerce website owner, I want to take a good look at “mobile” and some of the big misconceptions and hidden realities related to “mobile” that many people are not aware of. There’s always a “latest big thing” with digital marketing, and mobile is still managing to stay at the top of the charts bobbing between 1-3 for attention.
Google Firstly, Mobile First
If you have an ecommerce website you’ve definitely heard, read and repeatedly told how the importance of mobile is on the increase and how you should be really worried about mobile consumer trends and need to invest more dollars again, it’s time to do some quick due diligence. That’s what I am talking about.
Google has been the driving voice (not necessarily the driving force) by making a lot of noise about switching up its search engine results to deliver mobile results first. They’ve really been talking it up for some, years in fact. Google announced the official switch over to mobile first in September 2016. It’s not like Google can even change Google Search across the planet at once let alone make such a huge change to the core of its index anyway. Nevertheless, it has already begun
So what does all that mean anyway? Google Search is more of a library index rather that something that scans the Internet for you. What they are saying is that they’ve got two indexes in their library, one for books (yes, those using desktop and on-desk laptops users) and one for smartphones and tablets, mobile. So, now, when they update their indexes, they do the job of the smartphone index first. The idea is that mobile websites now have more priority, well at least first, anyway.
Australian Mobile Consumer or Mobile Consumed?
Unfortunately, a big chunk of digital market advice is given to Australian business owners based on US trends, not so much anymore because there aren’t people here doing the Aussie data research instead just ripping headlines from the US to sell you on something else mobile, the Australian ecommerce and mobile data pool is less than a tenth of the size.
“A wave in the ocean is a big deal, a ripple in a puddle isn’t”
Even as big analysts come onboard in Australia because they’ve finally got something to say as Australia plans to dump the 2G network (still currently used by 1/5 of Australian mobile phone users) and there’s something else to talk than the NBN that never really happen, I’m really concerned about how information is being skewed and terminology mismatched across the board, even by our respected media channels through to every online source of so-called expertise.
Over the last few years, ecommerce website owners have been told to a lot and why they have to by just about everyone. Forget about being lost in translation, this country has and is still experiencing one of the biggest terminology use and marketing jargon misappropriation and mismatching on a scale that makes me wonder if a lot of people need to go primary school.
“The Mobile Consumer Survey 2016, The Australian Cut, Hyper connectivity: Clever consumption” by Deloitte is the absolute perfect example of what SME online store owners and managers really need to be careful with. Read that title again, is that survey analysis or trying to be uber-cool marketing?
The “Mobile Consumer” of this survey does not mean “someone who is shopping and spending money at your online store” at all. All shopkeepers know the difference between window shoppers and those who are buying – one is looking and the other one is spending money.
While we need people looking in our store, it’s a shop, not a museum. The business model only works when we sell products to buyers. It doesn’t work for very long if most are just looking, does it?
So whether it’s the evening news, a radio talk show, another online survey, headline story, apparently credible snapshots (that are missing half the story) or marketer’s babble, the term that is getting thrown around the most and seems to be to crucial all everything that is important for ecommerce is “Mobile Consumers”.
Someone who uses wireless mobile Internet access is someone who is consuming mobile Internet as well as consuming the phone because they bought it or are still paying instalments on plan even though the phone is two years old.
The Rocket Science of Wireless Internet Use & User Numbers
Smartphones are cheaper today than they were yesterday. A smartphone is old after six months. Brands like Huawei, Samsung even, HTC among many more using the Android operating system took the world by storm over the last eight years, let’s say, which for us here in Australia, that means that storm finally hit our shores really only over the last couple of years.
The Quantum Theory of Mobile Users Simplified
- Mobile phones are cheaper than desktops so more people have them
- Mobile phones are cheaper than laptops so more people have them
- Mobile phones fit in the human hand so are held more than desktops and laptops
Without getting any deeper into theory, relatively speaking, that means we will have more people using mobile phones to access the Internet than we did before, and that trend continues right now.
And not just in theory, that means the Internet is being used more than it was before because more people have smartphones and there’s more network, not to mention Australia’s Internet access costs have down from being 20 times the global norm to only five times, which all results in the relative volume of access to the Internet via desktops and non-smartphone devices, being less.
It’s not really that complicated and such big deal what we break it down like that, instead of hyping it up and making it sound complicated and important.
Computers Means Desktops & Laptops Now
So no, desktop users have not disappeared just because there are more people using smartphones. We see this on every ecommerce website we are working with. The change in percentages has been the most radical across the board in just the last 12 months alone. Of course, industry and shop type have a huge impact on the method of access, for example, online stores specialising in girl’s bubble gum sneakers will have a lot more mobile access compared to computer access, and computer compared to mobile access is still higher on an ecommerce supplier of hospital and research grade micron electroscopes.
Mobile Users Cost Ecommerce Online Stores More Thanks to Google
This trend gets even worse when you look at it with Google Adwords without bidding rates adjusted by platform, all bid rates the same, whether that is mobile, tablet or computers. As an example, the online shop I’m using to highlight what is happening through the image below has around 33% mobile visitors compared to 50% who are still shopping from their desktop. Around a year ago, mobile visitors were about 22% and the year before about 18%. If we look at the data inside the snapshot take from inside Google Adwords from June 2017, we see that for Google Adwords there some trends that I’m not really liking, and they are not the only ones.
- 56.7% Mobile Clicks (those clicked on and paid for by the website)
- 52.5% Mobile Cost (those clicked on and paid for by the website owner)
- 52.5% Mobile Impressions (those seen) are 49.9% of the total
So now a look at the actual snapshot below. Is it coincidence that Google doesn’t do the arrangement as provided the data above? Take a look again, they’ve got Cost at the top, Impressions in the middle, and Clicks at the bottom.
Yes, same image, you’ll see the numbers in the way Google Adwords shows them so that it doesn’t look blatantly awful. Slash the pricing the Google Adwords for mobile devices and it stays the same.
56.7% Mobile Clicks (those clicked on and paid for by the website owner)
49.9% Mobile Impressions (those seen)
52.5% Mobile Cost (those clicked on and paid for by the website owner)
All Clicks, High Cost & Fewer Impressions
You can’t higher clicks without higher impressions, I’m sorry, it’s just not possible, or there’s something going on.
That’s why Google Adwords is presenting the neatly coloured graph in a jumbled up order. Otherwise, it would be so blatantly clear that there are more mobile users clicking on your website’s adverts and costing you more with relatively fewer Impressions – relatively fewer people seeing your advert, and relatively more people clicking on it, whether they buy or not.
How is it possible that fewer Google Adwords are actually being seen and more of them are being clicked on? Hello, Google Mobile First.
The First Move Google Made to Mobile First Android
Google created Android and made it for everyone so that any manufacturer could now go into smartphones. Google wasn’t being generous or trying to become another Apple, they just pretended to make a couple of smartphones to demonstrate how easy Android was, and even a bit easier to use than Apple’s iOS. They planned Mobile First well before they spoke Mobile First.
The Second Step Google Made to Mobile First
The biggest change that Google made towards Mobile First that was not hidden in free-to-all Android, was simply changing the way Google Search looks on your desktop and laptop computer. The design of the page was greatly simplified so much so that it is basically the same as viewing on a mobile phone.
The Third Step Google Made to Mobile First
Google Search change to display Google Ads on the very top, and the very top three of results, and explained how it was something or nothing and better for users. There will be no more Google Ads on the side as originally.
The Fourth Sneaky Step by Google Google to Mobile First
Came along soon after when Google Search changed the appearance so that Google Ads look very similar to search results, except for having a tiny green square with two letters “ad”. Google Adwords results became as close as identical as possible without Google having to admit it.
This all happened well before Google started talking about how it was going to go Mobile First and how Mobile First was becoming increasingly important all the while associating, explaining and finally introducing the Mobile First Google Search Algorithm change.
The real changes have nothing to do with the Google Search Algorithm, the indexing system, they were all those other smoothly and as un-importantly as possible changes they made little by little before.
I’m going to say it outright, Google made the subject of their up and coming change to “Mobile First” a smokescreen for what they were really doing, setting up Google Search to make a boat of money from advertisers through all those new smartphones that basically only display Google Ads when someone makes a search with Google Search.
The first five results are often Google Ads, and for a smartphone, you’ve scrolled down and as the scroll speeds up you’ll nicely miss actual search results and you’ll still select a Google Ad because the smooth scrolling always slows down right on Google Ads again.
Google Loves Google Mobile Search & Mobile Google Adwords
The chances of someone selecting a Google Ad every single time a search on mobile is just ridiculously high.
Your Adwords Can Cost More When Mobile User Search Google Thanks to Google Unless You Adapt Quickly
Let’s at the one graphic again, and look at the Computers, the Impressions are higher than the Clicks. That’s because when someone searches on Google on a desktop computer, they have the whole page to view instantly, even if Google stuffs the Adwords Ads at the top, you still see 10 or more results. This graphic changes all the time but the trend is the same. Visual data to help Google Adwords spenders feel like things are changing when really they are not. I call this Google Adwords Visual Distractions.
If It’s Mobile, Get to Know the Real Costs
This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest concerns I’m having for owners of SME online stores right now, and it is not going away. It is not just about the cost of Adwords either. The huge jump in mobile users does not always translate into consumers using a mobile device on your ecommerce website. And that’s a fact we’re seeing as clear as day.
Without seeing the data you know it’s true. There are lots of reasons why someone would only take a quick look at an ecommerce website and definitely would not buy when using a smartphone, that could, would and will be true in those case the majority of times rather than not;
- When you really want to have a good look at something before you buy online, a sofa for example – smartphone screens are only so big.
- When you are buying something tangible that costs more money, you are more likely to wait until you have the feeling of safety at home on your private Internet connection – a very valid concern to have.
- When you are at home and have the option of a huge screen monitor, you will want the big screen – why would anyone want a small screen?
My favourite reason from explained to me why focusing on mobile is important by a digital marketer is the fact that more people are taking photos with their smartphone and then using the photo of something they want to find it on Etsy.
Are they, well, that might be the case with some of them buying small and cheap items on a website that basically is full of images of cheap things.
- More people buy mobile apps when using their mobile phone because the mobile apps are for mobile devices – that one isn’t very difficult.
- More people will just look at stuff because they have a smartphone in their hand and they are not intending to buy – sure, if they see something they really like and they have a desktop at home, that will go back again but that’s not really a sale is?
- Young people live on their mobile phone creating traffic that’s not from a potential consumer because they don’t have a payment even.
I think you are getting the point, especially as an SME online store owner and/or manager. In a lot of cases, mobile users have come on the scene very fast and have disrupted ecommerce operations in a big way. Having more visitors because more people are using mobile is fine you could be wasting a lot of your Google Ads just because they are using Google Search and they are not going to buy anyway.
“Oh, Jeeves, I found the Bentley thanks to Google Search on this wonderful device, very smart telephone, indeed. I don’t think so, it’s not going to happen”
SME Owners Must Know Exactly What, How, Why & How Much Mobile Users, Mobile Visitors Really Spend
Further to that, if they’re not buying, how much should you be catering to them? I’m working with cases where we are actively dissuading mobile users to visit because we don’t want to offer a viewing service for small devices, full stop.
I am not anti-mobile but sure am sick of the hype of what’s the smaller than my accountant’s calculator, especially when specialising in clients who are strictly ecommerce and the business is the site and we’re dealing with customers. I remember when everyone had to have a mobile app, how ridiculous was that. Now your SME ecommerce site is being flooded with extra mobile users, especially if you pay Google, which is where a lot of advertisers are indirectly getting visitor number increases but not always the sales that should go along with that.
I’m not discounting cross-platform validity but that’s another extended connection and you will need to track that too to see how valid it is in your case.
I remember when we would just say, “there’s a time and a place for everything” but now you’re expected to be everything to everybody and be all “fluid” and moving – sorry, disagree, and data analytics isn’t enough, when it comes to ecommerce, everything needs to be centric and logical from the perspective of the business and there is a lot of knowledge inside the head of experienced business owners that needs to be combined with the data we can gather for analysis so a better strategy can be put in place.
What Next Steps to Take
There’s no way that mobile use is going away just yet and it will increase until the death of the mobile phone and we all become plugged in with visuals displayed on the back of our retinas and sounds wired into our brain – that’s no more than 10 years away. So there is a decade to deal with this current situation and make it work for your online store.
Here is a look at the sensible approach, one with due diligence before leaping into spending money on mobile users, hoping they will become consumers.
The First Step: Really get to know your visitors.
Obviously, there are a number of ways we can do this, and we should look at them all. The key issues I want to know about all users include the following:
- Where are they coming from?
- What are they doing on my ecommerce site?
- How long are they on my ecommerce site?
- How much are they spending on my ecommerce site?
- What devices are they on?
- What operating systems are they on?
- What browsers they use?
- What times they visit?
- What they do at those times?
- How much they spend at those times?
- How much is it costing me to have them visit?
- Are they using different devices for repeated visits – and is that translating into something?
All this data is readily available but data is nothing without analysis. The last two points concern me the most, although they are all extremely important to know.
Increased enquiries and more customer interaction are just some of the variables. If we use the bricks and mortar metaphor, having more foot traffic results in higher store running costs. The same is for an ecommerce site, especially when the number of visitors is increasing greatly as we have seen boom. If you are a growing website, a huge jump in visitors can even result in the need to change platforms. There are a lot of hidden costs to mobile traffic that can appear to come out of nowhere. Keeping your site operating over the longer term requires looking into the future and an assessing your current technology and how far it can go. Too many times I’ve seen ecommerce sites fail because they got hit hard by a technology wall or they were too late to adapt. And believe me, if you are not watching out, it can happen really fast. These are all factors to jot down in relation to the cost of visitors.
Cross-platform pollination is another marketing “pitch” I hear about way too much without seeing hard evidence. It’s more of a case that “it’s going to happen” and “we’ll increase it”. I’ll boil it down, let’s go brass tacks. The typical sell is that the mobile phone user visits several times because it is convenient and they have the time, say when in transit, to browse your website. Something catches their eye and then they get interested and come back and jump on the desktop at home and spend loads of money. Okay, it’s not impossible now, is it? But before we get carried away with the possibility, let’s set up the metrics inside your Analytics and Adwords to make sure we know exactly what is happening, if it is really happening and how much money is it leading to.
We’re always talking money with ecommerce websites because they are not marketing machines or lead generating tools for a service-based business. The operational cost is not a marketing budget, it’s a huge operating cost that needs to drive sales. Digital marketing costs time and money, and can easily eat a lot of both. Back to the point, all digital marketing spends should be incremental so that you build business and generate more revenue so that you can put more money into your digital marketing and grow it more – and that takes a little care.
It’s not a crazy as it sounds if you want to lock yourself in a room with papered up walls and write all this stuff down. We want to be able to make the best calls on what ways to increase revenue and how much that is really going to cost. You see that you’re getting a pretty good flow from Facebook to your website just by good word of mouth. You want to make more out of it, right? Getting Facebook to work for you still requires an investment because somebody has to do the work – something that a lot of people seem to forget with digital marketing. There is a lot of it, 60+ hour weeks are normal in this industry. You’ll understand that as a business owner.
The Second Step: Take a good look at your business at how well it suits mobile users.
There are two sides to having a good ecommerce site that is better for mobile users and mobile consumers, there is the technical side that everyone is telling you about and how more to market and develop it, and there is the other side of your business, how appropriate it is for mobile users and mobile consumers. At this point, it’s good to take a look at how appropriate your business model is for mobile users and mobile consumers.
All too often, business owners are not understood by digital marketers because digital marketers are so focused on their digital marketing. Another big factor is that a lot of “professionals” working in digital marketing are either just over 22 or they are barely 30. The majority of them have absolutely no business experience to call on themselves. That’s very different to a decade ago, when many Australian ecommerce owners were already running their business for two decades or even more.
This is where it does really pay to sit down with a consultant and discuss your business. Not from the perspective of what you should do but from the perspective of sound-boarding your business operations, what you know and what you know in your gut whether you know the technology or not.
The Third Step: Get an honest evaluation of your current website, where it is working and where it isn’t for all visitors, potential customers and regular customers.
Okay, this is a bit of the technical stuff. But that technical stuff can make a lot of difference. I have to be honest, a lot of websites are a bit of a mess. Those built from scratch, new and flash do a lot better. That’s what’s happening with the USA invasion. They’re coming to Australia in a big way with fresh technologies and big money behind their investments. You only have to look at some of the ecommerce websites originating from the USA that have come into Australia and you should be able to see that they are a step ahead when it comes to technology and website build. To pretend that isn’t the case is only sticking one’s head in the sand.
We’ve been dealing with a whole range of situations from where stakeholders have the funds to rebuild or throw at new technology right through to situations where clients refuse to accept their website is a mangled mess and there is just no way to fix it. One can feel like the grim reaper at those times after assessing a website and there is no way around it. A typical example is where a site has grown haphazardly and it has lost structure over time. There are so many categories and so many stems to the URLs that Google simply can’t crawl it to know what is there.
On the other hand, some small changes can have a huge impact on the way an ecommerce website performs. At this point, it’s easy to think that we are talking about SEO. I am so over SEO, PPC, Content (let’s leave Facebook out of it for now) whatever other element of digital marketing you want to call it, in terms of your ecommerce site, and that’s where the focus needs to be, on your business operations, your store, they are all one and the same.
If you think Google Adwords and Google Search are two different things, read this: we have made a huge impact on a number of ecommerce sites just by tweaking them. In other cases, I will be blunt and say that it isn’t going to be that easy.
Create a Strategy that Starts with the Biggest Increase in Revenue While Costing the Least
We’re going to have a lot of information to look at and there’s plenty of ways to increase “traffic” and “generate revenue”. But knowing all we will know, we will know the sensible options. The low-cost options that deliver real results. Those results are evident within a month of implementation.
Images, for example, are often a big cause of why a site is not ranking well on Search or Adwords results. Large images can really drag a site down.
Shortening links of all your pages is another great way to make your site more accessible. It’s really easy to understand why. It takes Google and all other software to read them.
Australian smaller, medium to even the largest ecommerce websites have some serious challenges coming at them, and it is my experience that ecommerce really picks up soon right through to March next year, at least. The wave of activity has been getting longer and the mountain higher each year. June is the time knuckle down to head in the right direction to make the most of the following 8 months because the challenge next year will be a bigger one.
In the meantime, I’m calling all Australians to support Australia and go with true blue Australian businesses who provide great products with great services.
I don’t buy any digital marketing sensationalism, and I hope you don’t either. I was unlucky to be the victim of one PDF recently. “Rapid Growth Guide: How to Build Your Business By 400%”. If it was only paper, I could have used it for scrap notes.
Business can be really good sometimes all of a sudden but the bigger the claim from a download or “something you need to know”, well, we used to call them “Get Rich Quick Schemes”.
If you’d like to chat with us about ecommerce and increasing sales, get in touch.