North American Phone Traffic: Search Tops for Referrals; Email for Conversions

September 29, 2015

Adobe-NA-Last-Touch-Channel-Share-Phone-Visits-2013-2015-Sept2015Over the past couple of years, search has overtaken direct as the leading referrer of mobile phone traffic in North America, according to a recent report from Adobe Digital Index (ADI). The same pattern has manifested in Europe, according to ADI’s analysis of more than 1.3 trillion visits to more than 10,000 websites in North America and Europe since 2013.

During the first half of this year, search accounted for 42.9% share of visits for phones as measured on a last-touch basis, up from 24.4% share in 2013. Back then, direct traffic (51.2%) represented more than double the share of search-referred visits, but direct traffic has since diminished to 30.9% of total visits in H1. The shift appears to have largely occurred last year, and ADI attributes the replacement of direct with search traffic to consumers looking for “the easiest way to access content and because mobile browsers encourage search.”

(It’s worth noting that last-touch attribution tends to undercount search, display and social, according to various studies, including ones from Adobe.)

Meanwhile, email has gradually grown over the past couple of years to account for more than 1 in 10 (10.3% share) of mobile phone visits in North America, exceeding its share in Europe (8.2%). Where email shines most, though, is in converting browsers into buyers, per the analysis. Looking at the conversion rates of the various last-touch channels on shopping websites, the report note that email boasts the highest rate on both desktops/laptops (3.39%) and mobile phones (0.87%) in North America.

Previous research has suggested that email’s influential role in smartphone e-commerce conversions is at least partly the result of an email click (particularly a remarketing email) removing the need for on-site search.

Email also leads all the analyzed channels in percentage of visits by previous purchasers. Some 11% of shopping site traffic from email in the US comes from past purchasers, with display next (7.5%).

Separately, Adobe also conducted a survey of 1,600 smartphone users in the US and Europe on the topic of personalization. Highlights of the survey include:

  • Some 42% in the US saying that advertisers have improved in the last 2 years in showing consumers ads that are valuable/compelling, with women (23%) more likely than men (13%) to feel that they have become “much better”;
  • More than one-quarter (29%) in the US feeling that ads should not be personalized, though this figure dropped to just 12% among 18-34-year-olds;
  • Roughly half of respondents in the US either not thinking that ads should be personalized (29%) or feeling that personalized ads are too intrusive or “creepy” (20%); and
  • About two-thirds of respondents aged 18-49 being willing to watch 3-4 ads in exchange for access to premium content.
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