Mobile for B2B Sites: Are We There Yet?

iPhone-internetDespite strong growth in mobile use of internet, there is not enough critical mass for most B2B to focus attention and investment in this area – yet.

More and more of us are using mobile handsets to access the internet, and we frequently see headlines declaring¬† that ‘mobile internet will soon overtake fixed internet‘ or advising us to ‘forget desktop, its all about the mobile‘. And of course this time of year we get the usual predictions like ‘the one big trend is mobile‘ and ‘mobile will finally take off [in 2011]‘. There’s no doubt that significant momentum is building in terms of online activity by mobile users. And it’s not just anecdotal: there are reliable statistics backing up these claims.

But, as usual, it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and analyze the data a little closer to home in order to separate the general hype from your specificreality before making any rash business decisions. These are very broad trends the pundits are taking about. Often, the data is consumer-oriented. Is it time for B2B businesses to ramp up investment in mobile advertising, site functionality, and app development? Are we there yet?

In order to get a sense of where things stand, I took a quick look at the data for 10 B2B sites* to gauge the impact of mobile traffic. These sites are operated by companies of various sizes (mostly medium-sized businesses), covering a range of business sectors, with various levels of site traffic*. Really, about the only thing they have in common is that they are selling goods and services almost exclusively to other businesses.

Here are the results:

mobile internet total visits 10 b2b sites

Strong and steady growth in total mobile traffic to 10 B2B sites, although curious dip since Sep-10.

mobile visits as percent of total

Across the 10 B2B sites analyzed, percent of total traffic has grown strongly and steadily, except for recent declines. However, it remains well below 2% of total traffic from these 10 sites.

mobile traffic by site

Significant differences in the amount of mobile traffic to individual sites, varying from strongly positive trends to relatively flat, with some volatility.

mobile percent visits by site

Except for one outlier that has reached the 5-6% range, mobile traffic is still below 2% of total visits for these sites.

So we can see that the growing trend in mobile use is starting to have a measurable impact for B2B sites Рbut only starting.  It is also worth noting that the trends are not unwaveringly upward, as pundits may imply.

It should also be pointed out that this analysis only considers visits. To get a more informed look at the impact of mobile traffic on your site (and to investigate traffic fluctuations that may be present), it may be worthwhile to also look at engagement metrics and data on outcomes. Mobile traffic may be small, but may be delivering a disproportionate share of conversions. Or there may be a lack of engagement if your site is not mobile-friendly. Also, by looking at unique visitors, you can gauge the actual number of people that are accessing your site via mobile devices – could tell a different story than visits alone.

Your results may vary, but this may provide some additional context with regard to mobile usage for B2B sites. This may not be the time for action and investment in catering to those mobile users, but it is probably a good idea to check in with your web analytics data – and your qualitative voice of customer data – so that you are ready when the time does come.

What do you think? Am I being too conservative? Are you getting out ahead of the curve and experiencing success with mobile in a B2B environment? Interested to hear from you.

*Background: 10 U.S. and Canadian B2B sites in various industry sectors; average visits per month per site ranging from ~10,000 to ~150,000 visits; data source for all sites: Google Analytics.