Mobile Revolution's Impact On Traffic Acquisition

For companies steeped in traditional website promotion to desktop computer users, 2016’s mobile market presents some unique challenges and opportunities.

Adult website owners in particular have long seen mobile as a side market — more of a distraction than an actual opportunity: after all, who wants to view porn on a tiny telephone screen using a slow-speed connection, or buy anything when they have to endure clumsy payment processes? Isn’t it better to send those pesky users off to an ad network or affiliate program?

If you are not catering to mobile visitors, then you are not reaching more than half of your potential customers.

While this may have once been the most profitable strategy, going down that road today means that you are simply not reaching today’s audience, which requires matching content to payment options to their region and more, before making the right connections — but there’s more to the story than that. Let’s take a closer look.

According to ExoClick’s global sales director, Richard Cottrell, many changes have occurred recently in online traffic, which has created a more fragmented traffic mix.

“During the last 12 months, Google began penalizing the rankings of sites if they were not mobile friendly,” Cottrell told XBIZ. “So publishers that adapted their sites for mobile increased their volumes of mobile traffic, which in turn has increased their opportunities for additional revenue streams.”

“Even though markets such as Europe and the U.S. are seen as saturated markets for smartphone adoption, emerging markets such as China, India and South America have more users each year, and many of these populations have never owned a desktop,” Cottrell explains. “The smartphone is their desktop device, which is again driving more mobile traffic.”

Cottrell says that with this hugely changing traffic ecosystem, mobile has surpassed desktop in terms of volume and is becoming the preferred traffic source for advertisers in certain markets — and increased demand has created a higher purchase cost for this traffic.

On the ExoClick platform, the process for acquiring traffic is the same as before, with the system offering both desktop and mobile visitors, but with new options for mobile marketers.

“As the traffic market evolves, so have our targeting features, and we have added additional tools specifically aimed at mobile with multiple mobile device and IP range targeting options,” Cottrell says. “[This] allows our clients to maximize their ROI and further fine tune their traffic sources.”

Cottrell told XBIZ that monetizing adult mobile compared to desktop traffic depends on the ad formats used and the offer being promoted.

“It is key that you know your market; what devices they are using; and what converts,” Cottrell concludes. “This can only be achieved by same method that has always been used: testing. Now there are more variables to test, but this also brings more opportunities to generate revenues from all traffic sources.”

It is a wake-up call to marketers that is supported by the stats. Over the past three years, desktop usage has reportedly declined by more than 12 percent, to currently account for only 35 percent of digital media consumption — relegating the desktop to being a secondary touch point — and one that falls far short of the 65 percent of media consumption attributed to mobile.

The reason for this might be as simple as thinking that your desk is where you work, not where you play, and this notion is reflected is the fact that the desktop remains the realm of e-commerce, where today’s savvy multi-platform users will purchase content on one device and then consume it on another.

Despite this, and perhaps out of habit, many marketers still primarily focus on serving desktop users — but this is an overly simplistic, outdated strategy when trying to reach cash carrying consumers.

It’s important to understand this in context of today’s multi-platform audience, where although mobile devices are the dominant method of visitor access being reported by the top 100 sites, the total number of smartphone owners is not projected to surpass the PC audience until later this year, or early in 2017.

For younger users, it’s already happened, with comScore reporting that overall smartphone penetration reached 79 percent in December of 2015, while hitting 93 percent among the prized 18- to 34-year-old demographic during the same period.

The upshot is that if you are not catering to mobile visitors, then you are not reaching more than half of your potential customers — and will reach ever few of them as time goes on.

This evolution in the marketplace does mean that the sky is falling, however.

According to Managing Director Joey Gabra, these days the difference between acquiring and monetizing mobile traffic are not as different as they used to be.

“Mobile traffic volumes are overtaking desktop volumes, so acquiring it is easier than ever,” Gabra says. “Acquiring mobile traffic is just like acquiring desk top traffic — it’s everywhere now.”

According to a new report by comScore, entitled “2016 U.S. Cross Platform Future in Focus,” 2015 was another transformative year in media, with the convergence of digital media and TV accelerating, while traditional consumer viewing habits continue to evolve as well.

“While the media landscape is often described as growing increasingly ‘fragmented,’ a more accurate description might be that it’s becoming increasingly interconnected, with consumers seamlessly accessing content across more screens than ever before,” the report states. “The lines between desktop, mobile, TV and film are beginning to blur as the various platforms are often more distinguished by difference in use case than by the underlying technology.”

The report points to current trends that are shaping today’s cross-platform media landscape, and offers insights about what these trends could possibly portend for the future, including the opportunities they present to marketers and publishers.

For example, comScore finds that TV viewers continue to shift time and space — enjoying more delayed, on-demand and digital programming than ever before. This “at your leisure” viewing of digital media is growing at a fast pace — primarily motivated by the use of smartphone apps — which account for nearly half of all digital media viewing today.

This can be seen as a plus for publishers, because it helps to remove competition from the equation — for example, your prospect may miss your show because their favorite show was on; and both cannot be easily watched in real time (although there are a growing number of users watching one show on a TV or other large display, while engaging in social media or shopping via a mobile device).

Reaching these distracted viewers is not always easy, and is one factor to consider when analyzing the productivity of your traffic: whereas many desktop users may be more focused on a single task, such as viewing a video or visiting a website, mobile users may be multitasking and might simply miss your ad, link, or call to action, as a result — lowering conversion ratios.

Modern media companies are striving to adapt to this changing landscape, with comScore reporting that several traditional print publishers are now garnering impressive increases in their digital audiences by effectively using mobile marketing channels to boost readership, and by becoming more digitally-savvy.

“Once given up for dead, many of these media properties are showing strong growth on the basis of mobile usage,” Dave Chaffey wrote for Smart Insights. “The mobile growth also speaks to the audience demand for what I would call ‘real content’ — as opposed to content created largely or exclusively for PR or SEO purposes.”

This hinge point illustrates the content connection to today’s traffic equation, where blindly buying raw eyeballs from traffic brokers won’t work, nor will self-serving propaganda or search engine manipulation — it is also a key to understanding the power of social media as a persuader, which works because it is real content.

Muddying the scene up, however, is the issue of banner blindness, fake (“bot”) traffic and ad blockers — problems long faced by desktop marketers and now spread to the mobile realm. While services such as provide some relief from ad blockers, and better filtering can help reduce bots (which estimates put as high as 80 percent or more of web traffic today), and more creative creatives can help reduce banner blindness, some problems are harder to solve.

Despite this, consumers are increasingly using mobile devices for both shopping and buying, and the trend seems irreversible at this point.

Set against this backdrop, website owners, promoters, service providers and more, are all seeking ways to attract and engage today’s internet user — a visitor that in 2016 is typically arrives via mobile device, but returns via a panoply of alternatives that include gaming consoles, tablets and more.

It is therefore important to realize that how you acquire and monetize traffic today will depend upon where your customer is in the sales funnel, and is no longer a matter of serving “desktop OR mobile,” but a matter of “desktop AND mobile AND tablets AND ...”

In the future, these distinctions are likely to continue to blur, so that once again, as in the past, traffic will just be traffic — regardless of where it originates and how. In the meantime, there are still a wide range of differences to deal with today.

Gabra told XBIZ that monetizing mobile traffic is not too different from monetizing desktop traffic today, but notes that billing remains a challenging factor in the process.

For example, can the customer pay for a given product: this isn’t just a matter of “is he able to afford it,” but can he easily complete the transaction in his own currency and language? For mainstream digital media marketers, this is not usually an issue, because of the availability of one-click carrier based billing — something that is not possible in the U.S. for adult merchants, however, due to pressure on carriers by special interest groups.

“In many cases there is still the one big determining factor that people need to consider when they roll out their mobile monetization strategy — and that determining factor is mobile billing,” Gabra explains. “In countries where there are still good mobile carrier billing solutions, there is the best chance you have at maximizing the potential of your mobile traffic revenues.”

Where it’s available, carrier billing enables customers to charge premium content to their phone bill, much as they once charged their “900” number calls, or akin to pay per view video customers adding these premium content purchases to their cable or satellite TV bill. It’s easy with a click or two...

Contrast this to having to enter your payment details on to a tiny touch screen, using an un-optimized join form, and you will quickly see that friction in the payment process plays a huge part in determining what you want your visitors to do — and as a result, how you obtain them, where you send them, and how much you make in the process.

For example, if you own a paysite, you might want to focus on attracting affluent Europeans who might make use of your carrier billed options and use targeted creatives to induce one-click impulse purchases.

For another example, consider cam companies and their needs: a free cam company might be willing to put more emphasis on mobile users if they do not require registration to view their cams — allowing the customer to overcome any payment hurdles if they feel compelled to tip or want any upsell benefits — while premium cam companies might prefer desktop users who are comfortable filling out online forms.

These differences in billing models are mirrored by regional differences in where the service is offered, allowing traffic managers to target those countries most suited to a particular offer. Add in the complex issues of culture and language, differences across carriers, the relative affluence of users and more, and driving traffic today becomes much more of a science than simply throwing as many visitors as possible at your offer and hoping enough stick to make it worthwhile.

The bottom line is that the traffic landscape continues to evolve, and with it the need to cater to users regardless of the devices they arrive at (and return on).


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