By Emma Searle

In 2010 the ONS estimated that 24% of UK adults accessed the Internet "on the go". By 2014 this had more than doubled to 58%, rising further to 96% for those aged 16 - 24. So, are we seeing this activity in Paid Search and when will we finally have the true "year of mobile"?

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“We get it, mobile is really important” sighs another weary client, “but why should we believe this year will be the year of mobile, when everyone said that last year (and the year before that, and the year before that)?”.

It’s a good question and one that comes up frequently. The answer however is pretty simple: Millennials are getting older.

The Millennial Impact

Millennials, currently aged 11 – 30*, are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, mobile phones and smart devices. Although there’s certainly a big difference between those born at the beginning of the generation and those at the end - the rate of technology growth over the last 20-30 years has been nothing short of phenomenal - they are still very much at the forefront of new technology adoption.

Is it surprising then that each year, more and more people enter the buyer cycle and, rather than being restricted to their desktops, simply use the devices that they have grown up with and are so familiar to them?

Here at Periscopix Towers we like to think we’re pretty hip, and with an average age of 27 we fall squarely in the generation of the Millennial. So we put theory to the test and asked our colleagues, “Have you ever bought anything on your mobile?”

A whopping 91% had and of those:

  • 30% mentioned using the Amazon app, mainly for ease (navigation/design and saved details) and because it was a trusted company
  • 40% purchase small or functional items
  • 28% purchase tickets (events, gigs, trains)
  • 33% purchase clothes

(Those that said no were all in the youngest category, 18-24)

Retail Data

Perhaps however, given the industry we’re in and the aforementioned ‘hip-ness’ we’re not the most representative cross section of the general public.

We therefore decided to take a closer look at the data from a sample of some of our largest retail clients. Across all 6 of the accounts we looked at, 18-24 year olds showed a clear preference for mobile devices, with mobile accounting for 48% of clicks from that age group (desktop 28%, tablets 23%).

Percentage of Clicks by Device

This was also the case for 25-34 year olds, though with a slightly more even split (mobile 37%, desktop 32%, tablet 31%). After that, we can see that tablets become the most preferred device in terms of click volume, whilst mobiles drop to become the least preferred device.

Of course, it is not uncommon for us to see large volumes of traffic through mobiles. This is often cited as consumers researching products and services before purchasing, but what about final conversions? This is where the younger Millennials really take the lead, with 29% of purchases made by 18-24 year olds occurring on a mobile device.

Percentage of Conversions by Device

Desktop still leads the way, with tablets following closely behind, but it is here that we can really see the negative correlation between age and likelihood of purchasing via mobile (with the exception of the 65+ category). Even between the two age groups that the Millennials span there is a 10% gap, suggesting a large social shift in attitudes towards purchasing via mobile devices over the last 5 years.

What Can We Learn?

As we saw from the Periscopix survey, there are still certain items that people feel more comfortable buying via their mobiles. A lot of respondents also noted that they would only buy from companies they know and trust, or via an app, as this makes it easier by storing their details. This suggests app development is a key area brands should be thinking about investing in to retain customer loyalty.

All in all, mobile will continue to grow experientially over the next 20-30 years, so you should really invest in finding the right strategy that works for you. And don’t be surprised if you continue to hear ‘this year will be the year of mobile’.

* There’s a lot of discussion about when one generation begins and when one ends. For the purpose of this we are assuming the following date of birth ranges: Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964, Generation X 1965 – 1984, Millennials 1985 – 2004.

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