Marketing dollars are shifting to smartphones and tablets and away from desktops, according to studies from marketing firms IgnitionOne, Marin Software and Kenshoo.

Three reports from marketing firms released today document the ongoing shift of digital advertising dollars to mobile devices.

Marketers in multiple industries, including retail, increased their spending on paid search advertising targeting consumers on tablets by 37% in Q4 2014 over Q4 2013, and increased their paid search spend targeting consumers on smartphones by 78% during the same period, according to a study by marketing firm IgnitionOne. The results are based on data from the firm’s clients, who together spent more than $1.5 billion on online and mobile paid search and display advertising in 2014.

The combination of more consumers using mobile devices and marketers becoming more sophisticated in how they communicate with those mobile shoppers has made mobile advertising more attractive, IgnitionOne says.

IgnitionOne adds that businesses also are spending more on mobile display ads. In fact, the growth in mobile display advertising is limited only by the amount of ad inventory available, the marketing firm says. Marketers continue to move budget dollars to programmatic systems that allow automated bidding for online and mobile ads and offer stronger, trackable results. Spend on this form of mobile advertising was up 35% in Q4 2014 over Q4 2013, IgnitionOne says.

“These numbers show significant growth of mobile across the board, so it’s becoming more important for marketers to get a clear view of the customer across devices and across interactions,” says Roger Barnette, president of IgnitionOne.

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The Q4 releases of highly anticipated mobile devices, such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus helped accelerate the shift to advertising directed to mobile devices and away from desktops, says digital marketing firm Marin Software.

Q4 2014 over Q4 2013, desktops lost 6.3% of paid search click share, mostly to smartphones, where click share grew 4.8%, according to the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, which looks at over $6 billion worth of ad spend via the Marin platform. The index primarily consists of large marketers, advertisers and agencies that spend in excess of $1 million annually on paid search, display, social and mobile advertising. As such, the findings skew toward the behavior of larger organizations and more sophisticated advertisers.

Advertisers spent nearly 50% of their search budgets targeting mobile devices in Q4 2014, even though mobile conversions make up only 30% of all search conversions, Marin Software says. While that may indicate that retailers struggle to get shoppers to complete a purchase on a smartphone, it can also indicate that marketers are not properly attributing the impact of mobile advertising, the firm says. For example, many mobile clicks may convert into in-store purchases, or may be saved as a reference for a later at-home purchase on a desktop. While smartphone spend outpaces smartphone clicks and conversions, Marin’s data show the opposite on tablets, which make up only 8.4% of ad spend but more than 15% of clicks and 13% of conversions.

In Q4 2014, the click-through rate for paid search ads was 2.1% on desktops, 2.9% on smartphones and 2.5% on tablets, Marin Software finds. For the same period, the click-through rate for display ads was 0.2% on desktops, 0.4% on smartphones and 0.4% on tablets, Marin finds.

Almost half of all online display advertising spend in Q3 2014 was on mobile devices, which made up more than half of clicks, Marin says. Tablet clicks outpace tablet spend on a percentage basis, and vice versa for smartphones, Marin says.

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And yet another digital marketing firm confirms the trend to more mobile advertising. Kenshoo Ltd. in a study of its clients’ activity in Q4 2014 finds in North and South America mobile devices account for 34% of paid search spend and 37% of clicks.

Overall, Kenshoo also finds in Q4 2014 compared with Q4 2013:

  • Paid search impressions decreased 4%.
  • Paid search clicks increased 8%.
  • Paid search click-through rates increased 11%.

The IgnitionOne Q4 2014 marketing study also finds:

  • Yahoo/Bing shows historic growth, gaining its best share since 2008. Yahoo/Bing continued to chip away at Google’s huge lead and now holds 26.3% of U.S. search spend versus Google’s 73.7% in Q4 2014. This is the highest market share and largest growth in share over consecutive quarters since the inception of the Yahoo/Bing search alliance and equates to a 25.8% jump in market share since Yahoo started using Bing in 2009.
  • 2014 ends with a strong Q4 for paid search, with paid search spending up 11% year over year during the  quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season. This was the highest growth rate of any three-month period in 2014.

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 and managing editor, mobile commerce, at Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce and at @MobileInsiderBS.

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