NEW! You can now see the 2018 edition of our mobile vs. desktop study here.
You may have heard a rumor that the mobile revolution is upon us, and it surely is, but just how far along have we come? In today’s post, I’m going to share hardcore stats pulled from SimilarWeb that will help you get the complete picture.
The assembled data shown here is based on U.S. traffic in 2016 across the web.
Aggregated Stats: Desktop vs. Mobile
The most common stat that people like to talk about is the percentage of their traffic that comes from mobile devices. Let’s have a look:
Mobile has established a clear lead. Chances are that this will continue to grow over time.
[Tweet “According to @similarweb Mobile now drives 56% of all traffic. More at”]
But, is that the whole story? Let’s dig a bit deeper to see, first by looking at total time on site:
The above chart shows that people still spend more time on sites via a desktop computer than a mobile device. Note that this chart calculated the aggregate time of all visits tracked by SimilarWeb for a month, based on a cumulative total measured time of 39 trillion seconds.
[Tweet “Mobile drives more traffic worldwide, but desktop users spend more time on site. More at”]
Since our first chart showed that more visits came from mobile devices, this suggests that the average time per visit is significantly higher for desktop over mobile. In fact, our data shows that people spend about 1.9 times as much time per visit on desktop than they do on mobile.
Now let’s look at how the bounce rate differs:
Another strong win for the desktop platform. In aggregate across the web, mobile bounce rates are 40% higher than they are on desktop.
[Tweet “Mobile drives more traffic, but has 40% higher bounce rate across the web according to @similarweb”]
One last stat to consider is that of total page views per visitor. This should help us understand another aspect of how the users engage in desktop vs. mobile:
As you can see, desktop wins again. Looking at the entire web at this very broad level, what we see if that mobile devices generate the most visits, but that desktop sites still drive the most engagement.
[Tweet “Globally, mobile drives the most traffic, but desktop still wins for site engagement. More at”]
For most businesses, active participation across all device types is likely critical. Yet, it’s important to recognize the difference in how users behave based on the device they use to access your site and to adapt your strategy accordingly.
Stats by Industry Category
We also broke the data down by industry category, to see what level of variance we might see. In fact, the level of variance was very significant. Let’s start with a look at total visits again:
The variance is huge, with 75% of visits to adult sites coming from mobile devices, but just under 40% for the finance industry. In fact, there were six industries where more than half the visits still come from desktop devices. In contrast, there are seven industries where more than 60% of the visits come from mobile devices.
Next up, let’s look at time on site by industry category:
For this one, note the last column, where we calculate the ratio of desktop time on site to mobile time on site. The data shown is for the average time on site per visit.
For news and media we see that people spend 3.38 times longer on an average desktop visit than an average mobile visit. There is only one category where the average visit time is longer on mobile than desktop, books, and literature. The reason for this may be due to devices like the Kindle. There were two categories where the time was close to equal (Adult and Home and Garden).
Let’s look at bounce rate next:
The bounce rate was higher on mobile for ALL 25 industries, though the Adult industry was close to dead even. In the finance sector, the bounce rate on mobile was more than twice as high.
Last, but not least, let’s look at page views per visitor:
The desktop page views per visitor is clearly higher in every industry, ranging from 1.5 to 3.15 times higher.
How can we use this data to inform our digital marketing strategy? Some of the top observations and ideas I have are as follows:
Mobile Deserves a Full Seat at the Table: Historically, mobile was something we did as an offshoot of our desktop site. When desktop was the main platform, that probably made sense. But now, with anywhere between 40% to 75% of your visitors coming from mobile, you can no longer treat your mobile site as a secondary priority.
To me, this means designing your mobile site before you design the desktop site. Instead of coding your desktop site and then writing style sheets to shrink it into a Smartphone form factor, consider instead designing your mobile site first. Then you can figure out how to leverage the larger screen real estate available on a desktop platform.
In my estimation, this is more likely to lead to a high-quality user experience for both environments.
Don’t Forget to be Mobile First: While this was not the focus of this post, I feel I must remind you that sometime this year Google will switch to basing their rankings on their crawl of mobile sites, and not their crawl of desktop sites. That means you need to make SEO considerations a big part of what you do when putting together your mobile site. In a forthcoming study, I’ll be sharing data on what we’ve seen when crawling many different mobile sites.
Spoiler alert: it’s not good. Many of the mobile sites we checked were very poorly optimized for SEO.
Don’t Forget the Desktop!: Data shows that most conversions still happen there, so your desktop experience is still critical to overall business success. Paying more attention to mobile does NOT mean that you should ignore the desktop.
Consider Deferred Conversions: Given the characteristics of desktop vs. mobile, you may want to consider “micro conversions” in mobile, e.g., doing something simple, such as getting a user’s email address, and then following up with email outreach to try to bring them back on a desktop to convert them there.
The rationale for this is that users may not want to deal with complicated forms on a mobile device, and/or may not want to enter their credit card there. Following up with them later lets them come back on a desktop device and convert at a later, and perhaps more convenient time.
If you’re open to this idea, I’d urge you to test it thoroughly to see which gets better results for you.
Take Your Industry into Account: Of course, each industry is different, so take this into account as you move forward. If you’re in Finance, for example, only 40% of your visitors come from mobile devices. That’s still a large number, but it does suggest that you might be more conservative than other industries. And for example, your results with deferred conversions may be better than that in some other industries.
Compare Your Site’s Behavior to Industry Norms: If the average percentage of mobile visitors in your industry is 60%, and your site is at 35%, that may be an indicator of a problem. See how you compare to industry norms, and if there is a large delta with your site take the time to understand why.
Learn more about mobile digital marketing
- 31 Must Know Stats About the Continuing Growth of Voice Commands with Smartphones
- Why Mobile First Means Thinking Beyond the Browser
- Shopping and Finance Apps: What Do People Care About Most?
- Everything Mobile with Google’s John Mueller and Mariya Moeva
Want to keep learning? Check out all of our digital marketing research studies.