January 23, 2012, 3:34 PM

Mobile traffic hits 13% of total web traffic, study finds

Devices using Apple’s iOS have a slight edge over Android.

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Traffic stemming from mobile devices to a dozen web sites in various industries, including retail, accounted for 13% of total web traffic in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 6% in Q4 2010, finds a study by marketing and public relations firm Walker Sands Communications.

“When we began this study in Q3 2010, traffic originating from mobile devices accounted for a relatively modest portion—4%—of total web traffic,” says John Fairley, director of digital services at Walker Sands. “More than a year later, we have seen a significant uptick in mobile browsing, which has increased more than three-fold. We can only expect this trend to continue as more consumers become smartphone users who browse on the go. Companies that have an online presence but haven’t developed a solid mobile strategy yet need to start taking the mobile platform seriously.”

Retailers optimizing mobile commerce sites and developing mobile apps should take note of which types of mobile devices are most prevalent. The study, which examined one million unique web visitors throughout Q4 2011, finds that devices using Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile operating system accounted for 47% of mobile traffic. 31% stemmed from iPhones, down from 48% in Q4 2010; 16% from iPads, up from 10%. Smartphones and tablets running Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system accounted for 46% of mobile traffic, up from 27% in Q4 2010.

During the quarter, BlackBerry, which years ago dominated the mobile market, continued its downward spiral. Devices running the BlackBerry mobile operating system accounted for only 4% of total web traffic, down from 10% in Q4 2010.

Walker Sands notes that in the battle for smartphone supremacy, Android has quickly unseated Apple for the top spot and is growing.

“Android’s expansive portfolio of mobile products makes it more accessible to a broad base of consumers than Apple’s iPhone, which is why we see tremendous growth in the Android market share at the expense of Apple’s iPhone,” says Daniel Laloggia, digital marketing manager at Walker Sands. “The Android operating system runs on devices at virtually every price point, both on par with the iPhone and more cost-effective mobile options starting at $99. The wide variety of Android devices also gives consumers more flexibility in terms of design, aesthetics and features. On the other hand, if a consumer does not like the way an iPhone looks or feels, there is no alternate product available in-brand.”

With Android expected to capture more of the global smartphone market in 2012, mobile traffic from Android devices will also increase, Laloggia predicts.

However, while Android enjoys robust market share, studies have shown that iPhone and iPad users convert and spend more via mobile commerce. For example, shoppers using an iPad lead to more purchases than shoppers on other mobile devices, according to IBM Coremetrics. In October 2011, IBM finds, the conversion rate for consumers using iPads was 6.8% compared with the overall mobile device conversion rate of 3.6%. The IBM Coremetrics Benchmark report gathers data from the web sites of more than 500 U.S. retailer clients of IBM.

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