The Mobile Opportunity in Emerging European Markets
More companies are serving Central and Eastern European markets with translated mobile-friendly experiences.
Until relatively recently, companies only needed a translated website to serve international consumers. Offering global online consumers something akin to a mobile website was downright silly. You can practically hear the nay-sayers of yesteryear: Who surfs the Internet on their phone? That’s stupid! The screen’s too small!
Boy, how times have changed. These days, providing mobile experiences for customers isn't a "nice to have." It's mission-critical.
The number of mobile-device users eclipsed desktop computer users worldwide in 2014. Now, more Internet searches are conducted on mobile devices than on PCs. Further, more users consume digital media on their smartphones and tablets these days than on computers.
In fact, smartphone and mobile-web use is so pervasive, Google updated its search algorithm last year to show a preference for sites that provide mobile experiences. (These sites appear higher in results when users search on their mobile devices.)
Note that I’ve been using the term “mobile experience” and not “mobile website.” There’s a good reason for this. Nowadays, companies have embraced responsive web design (also known as adaptive site design) for their websites. Such designs dynamically adapt to a user's device, optimising its presentation of content to the proper size, resolution and orientation of the user's screen.
When properly executed, content looks great on desktop browsers, tablets and phones.
Smartphone use is particularly prevalent in European markets. There are about 240 million smartphone users in Europe right now. Smartphone penetration in Western European countries is presently at 60.5%, representing an explosive increase of 166% since 2011. This penetration rate will grow another 11% by 2018.
Most notably, emerging Central and European markets are embracing smartphones, too: The current penetration rate is just over 50%, on track to grow by 20% in two years. Since 2011, the adoption rate in these markets is 369%—over twice of that seen in Western European markets.
Smartphones are blowing up in Europe—no, not in that way—but tablets’ popularity have sagged slightly in recent years. (We chalk this up to competition from new large-screen smartphones and “2-in-1” laptops with detachable touchscreens.)
Examining Emerging Markets in Europe
Smartphones are increasingly becoming the primary way many European consumers are accessing the Internet. But how do these consumers' expectations of e-commerce evolve alongside their increased smartphone use? Are European mobile users' conversion rates finally achieving parity with desktop users? How does the future bode for tablet users?
We examined the performance of translated and localised websites that we operate in three emerging European markets to find out. In our research, we focused on two different scenarios:
- MotionPoint clients that do not provide a localised mobile experience
- MotionPoint clients that serve their customers through localised mobile and desktop sites
The websites we examined are high-performing sites from e-commerce retailers. These provide a representative example of companies that are engaging in best practices, both home and abroad.
We examined the online in-market performance of one MotionPoint retail client that was serving Slovakia exclusively with a desktop website. (The client did not serve Slovaks with a responsive-design site, or a dedicated mobile site.) From 2012 to 2015, we found the following:
Sessions: Sessions from mobile devices averaged 252% growth, while tablets averaged 165% and PC/desktop 51%. This is remarkable engagement, considering mobile users had to view the company’s translated desktop website on their mobile devices.
Bounce Rate: The bounce rate for mobile devices was relatively higher than tablets and PC/Desktops. Mobile devices averaged a bounce rate of 31%, compared tablets’ rate of 25% and PC/desktops at 22%. While attribute a much higher bounce rate to the subpar user experience of viewing a desktop site on a mobile screen. (However, we also expect higher bounce rates from mobile devices due to the way users surf the Internet on these devices. Engagement is often lower.)
Transactions: Although the actual number of transactions through mobile devices was lower than PC/desktops and tablets, the average growth in transactions was higher than both. Over the three years we reviewed, the average transaction growth of 387% for mobile devices was followed by tablets at 203%, and PCs at 103%.
Revenue: Similar to the transactions data, the revenue from mobile devices was lower than PC/desktops and tablets. However, the average growth in revenue was higher than both, with average growth of 370% for mobile devices followed by tablets at 151% and PCs at 83%.
Conversion Rate: Similar mileage here. Conversion rates from mobile devices were lower than PC/desktops and tablets. Average transaction growth: 34% for mobile devices, followed by PC/desktops at 33% and tablets at 10%.
Time On Site: Tablets users spent the highest amount of time on site, followed by PC/Desktop users, and then mobile users.
The Other Perspective
We then examined the traffic to one of our major fashion retailers that served Slovaks with both a mobile site and desktop site. While this retailer didn't provide an in-language shopping experience for these consumers, it received robust traffic from Slovakia, and despatched products there. Based on our analysis from 2014 to 2015:
Sessions: Year-over-ear mobile site sessions grew by 100%. The company’s desktop sessions dropped by 9%.
Transactions: Although the number of transactions through the company’s mobile site was lower than PC/desktops, the mobile site’s transactions grew 250% year-over-year. The desktop site’s transactions grew by only 7%.
Revenue: Again, the revenue generated through the mobile site was lower than through the PC/desktop site. However, the mobile site’s revenue grew by 225% year-over-year, compared to desktop site’s anemic growth of 2%.
We examined the site performance a retail client that was serving the Czech Republic through a desktop site exclusively. (This client did not serve Czechs with a responsive-design site, or a dedicated mobile site.) During the period of 2012 to 2015, we found:
Sessions: Sessions from mobile devices averaged 187% growth, while tablets averaged 108%. PC/desktop averaged 29%.
Bounce Rate: The bounce rate for mobile devices was relatively higher than tablets and PC/Desktops. Mobile devices averaged a bounce rate of 33%, compared to tablets at 25% and PC/Desktops at 21%. (We presented our take on why mobile bounce rates are higher in the section above.)
Transactions: Much like we saw in Slovakia, the number of transactions through mobile devices was lower than PC/desktops and tablets. But the average growth in transactions was than both: 292% for mobile devices, followed by tablets at 121% and PCs at 58%.
Revenue: A similar story here. Average growth in mobile revenue was higher than other online channels: 267% for mobile devices, followed by tablets at 101% and PCs at 57%.
Conversion Rate: Mobile conversion rates were lower than PC/desktops and tablets. Average transaction growth for desktop/PC from 2012 to 2015 was 330% for desktop/PC. Smartphone-based transaction growth was 36%. Tablets came in last at 7% transaction growth.
Time On Site: Identical mileage to what we saw in Slovakia: Tablet users spent the highest amount of time on-site, followed by PC/desktop users, and then mobile users.
The Other Perspective
As we did with Slovakia, we examined the traffic to one of our major fashion retailers that served the Czech Republic with a mobile experience and a desktop site. And as with Slovakia, this retailer didn’t provide an in-language shopping experience for these consumers. However, it received robust traffic from the Czech Republic, and despatched products there. Based on our analysis from 2014 to 2015:
Sessions: Year over year, the company’s mobile site sessions grew by 114%. The desktop site’s sessions dropped by 1%.
Transactions: Although the actual number of transactions through the company’s mobile site was lower than PC/desktops, the mobile site’s transactions grew by 40% year-over-year. The desktop site grew at nearly the same rate.
As with our other markets, we examined the online performance of a retail client that served Latvia through a desktop site exclusively. Based on data from 2012 to 2015, we found:
Sessions: Sessions from mobile devices averaged 196% growth, while tablets averaged 75%, and PC/desktop 24%.
Bounce Rate: As in other markets, the bounce rate for mobile devices was lower than tablets and PC/desktops. (Mobile devices averaged a bounce rate of 33%, compared to tablets at 29%, and PC/desktops at 22%.)
Transactions: Perhaps unsurprisingly, we saw similar performance here, as well. The number of transactions through mobile devices was lower, but the average growth was higher than tablets and desktop/PC. Mobile saw average transaction growth of 400%. Tablet-based transaction grew by 125%. PC-based transactions grew nearly 50%.
Revenue: Revenue from mobile was lowest of the three channels, but average growth in revenue was highest among mobile users. Mobile revenue growth rose by nearly 350%. Tablet revenue growth increased by 85%. PC-based revenue growth hit nearly 40%.
Conversion Rate: similar to transactions and revenue, conversion rate from mobile devices has been lower than PC/desktops and tablets with average transaction growth of 61% for mobile devices followed by PC/ tablets at 28% and Desktops at 26%.
Time On Site: PC/desktop users spent the highest amount of time on-site, followed by tablet users, and then mobile users.
The Other Perspective
We then examined the traffic to one of our major fashion retailers that served Latvia with a mobile experience and a desktop site. As with the other markets, this retailer didn’t provide an in-language shopping experience, but saw robust traffic and transactions from the country. Based on our analysis from 2014 to 2015:
Sessions: Year-over-year mobile site session grew by nearly 70%. Desktop site sessions increased by a comparatively meager 14%.
So what insights can we glean about European consumers from this wealth of data? Firstly, it's clear these emerging markets showed a notable increase in smartphone preference among users in a very short amount of time.
For brands considering these markets (or other European markets) to serve online, this is a confirmation that providing mobile experiences is a must. Providing those experiences in the markets' preferred languages is also critical.
As we've also seen, mobile traffic is almost always the fastest-growing segment of website visitors. When it comes to smartphone adoption, Eastern European markets are quickly catching up to Western Europe markets. Offering translated mobile experiences will maximise this growing user segment.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that from the data we collected, a meaningful pivot occurred in 2014: the number of sessions from smartphones significantly surpassed tablets. This may indicate that-at least within these emerging markets-smartphones are taking over tablet market share. Creating mobile-friendly experiences is more important than ever.