My Background Sr. Manager Website Analytics at IHS Cheaptickets.com (‘03 – ’05) DexKnows.com (‘05 – ‘09) IHS.com (’09 – Current) Involved in the deployment of the DexKnows mobile platforms from the Spring of 2008 through December 2009.
US Mobile Market at a Glance 228M individual mobile subscribers1 6.1% year over year subscriber growth1 As point of comparison, 220M Internet users2 1 ComScore M:Metrics for 3 months ending October 2008 2 Nielsen/NetRatings in June 2008
Mobile Market is Rapidly Changing Smartphones! Ever increasing Wi-Fi coverage and faster carrier networks, e.g. 3G and the coming 4G ‘All you can eat’ data plans Carrier ‘walled gardens’ slowly coming down
22M subscribers with smartphones, which represents 9.7% penetration.
1ComScore M:Metrics for 3 months ending October 2008
Why is smartphone growth important to web analytics?
If not already, smartphones will become a significant segment of your website’s usage.
Smartphones represent the majority of Internet usage from mobile devices. 90% of mobile traffic (hits) on DexKnows.com comes from smartphones. 51% of traffic hits from the iPhone alone.
Due to the ‘on the go’ nature of mobile, the traffic is mostly incremental and therefore very little cannibalization of PC traffic.
Smartphones have web browsers very similar in functionality to PC browsers – meaning your web analytics code will mostly function as is.
Mobile Internet Platforms WAP/xHTML: The standard Internet browser interface on non-smartphones. ‘Full featured’ smartphone browsers: e.g. Safari on the iPhone, IE Mobile, Google Chrome (‘scaled down’) on Android, Opera, SkyFire, Firefox Mobile (soon to be released). Downloaded apps: examples include Java apps on non-smartphones and iPhone/Android apps. SMS: AKA text messaging to a phone number or short code.
Web Analytic tracking challenges with mobile platforms
Cookies available on smartphones with ‘full featured’ browsers, however rarely available on non-smartphones.
Referrer not available for pixel based tracking in WAP/xHTML.
IP Address can change several times during a session (switching between towers and/or Wi-Fi) or the IP reflects the network gateway, e.g. Blackberry.
SMS tracking is strictly server based. No image capability for 1-byte image send from client device.
Downloaded apps may have ‘offline’ functionality. To capture events or actions, the tracking may need to be queued for the next online access.
What’s the impact of those tracking challenges? With no cookie or unique device ID, repeat visitor tracking is not possible. In addition, visit ‘sessionization’ is less accurate without a cookie or changing/gateway IP address. Without the referrer, tracking of SEO effectiveness is lost. IP filtering not possible given gateway and changing IPs.
Expect smartphone growth rates of +100% per year in 2009 and 2010. Consumers will replace old phones with competitively priced smartphones and data plans.
‘Location Awareness’ device functionality and applications will rapidly grow. Can your website use location awareness on mobile or in a PC browser?
SMS (the ugliest ‘walled garden’) will slowly die over the next few 5-10 years. Replaced by IM services and/or Twitter.
A small percentage of less affluent consumers will jettison their PC for an all-in-one smartphone. Evidence of trend already in markets such as India and China where PC Internet access is limited and/or expensive.
What should my company be doing for mobile (if not already doing)?
If you don’t know, first measure how much mobile traffic is already on your website. You might be surprised!
Start planning smartphone optimized browser versions of your website, e.g. iPhone (1st), Blackberry (2nd), Android (3rd).
Review whether downloaded apps make sense for your business, e.g. iPhone, Blackberry, or Android.
Don’t worry about SMS or WAP/XHTML versions as Smartphones are replacing those platforms.
How do I measure mobile traffic to my website?
Gather up a sampling of your Apache or IIS logs. Extended format must be enabled to capture user agent.
Match the user agents to a comprehensive list of mobile user agents such as WURFL or Device Atlas: (http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/ or http://deviceatlas.com/)
Calculate % of hits from mobile devices. This will provide a rough idea of overall mobile usage. Further breakout % of hits coming from smartphones by grouping user agents.
Your current web analytics vendor might also provide mobile reports and/or browser (user agent) breakout. Remember this may NOT be all your mobile traffic due to vendor’s tracking limitations.
A few parting pointers on implementing mobile analytics
Once your mobile browser platforms are live, redirect traffic from your main website to your mobile versions based on the user agent.
Even though mobile Internet access speeds are rapidly increasing, still minimize the size of your pixel based calls to avoid a slow user experience. Use coded values for custom parameters when possible, and only send the parameters necessary.