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The Secret Browsers On Your Website
Analytics Reveals Who They Are … And A Lot More

by Andy Bovingdon, http://bango.comMonday, July 20, 2009

New visitors are something many companies aren’t aware of, which means they’re missing out a very important market.  Who are they?  These secret visitors are people who browse the PC web from their mobile phones and who expect to enjoy a positive experience browsing a company’s website from their mobile phone.

So just how different is the mobile web from the regular PC web?  As far as consumers are concerned, the mobile web is the PC web – just smaller.  When people are looking for services and content that match the immediacy and personal nature of mobile (up-to-date sports news, movie listings, dating sites, online shopping, to name a few) they are browsing the internet but on a mobile phone.

The problem is that many of the most trafficked PC websites don’t work well on leading mobile phones – despite the fact that typically 5% of visitors to PC websites now come from mobile devices. This means that PC websites are not adapting fast enough to match mobile browsing trends and are failing to present mobile-friendly versions of their sites.  What would you pay to capture 5% more customers at once?

One of the reasons for this is that when PC websites owners analyze their traffic, they use web analytics tools that aren’t optimized for mobile, meaning that they miss the mobile-originated traffic that comes to their PC sites.  Many popular web analytics tools available today rely on JavaScript tags for data collection.  But tracking this way will not work on the majority of mobile devices because only the latest handsets support JavaScript.  So while this method detects Smartphones, it will miss around 80% of mobile traffic.

Other web analytics tools depend on cookies, but although most modern handsets support cookies, there are still issues with reliability, both on the device and as part of the internet connection where transcoders and operator gateways can block their use.  This results in a high percentage of the mobile traffic not being identified correctly – especially repeat visits.

As well as the differences in tracking technologies that work, the whole mobile web infrastructure is more complex than the PC web.  Mobile has many hundreds of devices, each with multiple versions of firmware, some specified by the operators.  Each can have multiple browsers, some of which are totally hosted on the handset, while others like Opera Mini use dedicated servers based in Norway to connect to the internet.

Many PC analytics tools simply look at the IP address of the device connecting to determine identity and location information; with the PC web, this typically gives the network address of the device or of the internet service provider.  What it gives on mobile depends on the connection being used: It can be the network address of a WAP or internet gateway server owned by the operator. It can be the Opera Mini or Turbo server in Norway, the Blackberry gateway in Canada or a Blackberry corporate gateway.  These connections can be direct but can also be routed via a website transcoder used by the operator in an attempt to make full websites usable on mass market handsets.

Wi-Fi is also a major factor today, as smartphone sales soar and handsets automatically select Wi-Fi as their preferred connection. Websites today can expect to see more than 24% of their mobile visitors connecting over a Wi-Fi connection and it is important to be able to understand and track consumers switching between operator and Wi-Fi connections.

Traditional PC analytics simply cannot handle this mobile complexity and as a result can deliver incorrect results. Fortunately, unlike the PC web, mobile has the concept of individual user identity, which can be used by analytical tools that have the means to secure this ID from the mobile network. This capability allows companies like Bango to provide an anonymous but persistent user ID enabling companies to measure and analyze mobile traffic. Mobile analytics tools are designed specially to record and analyze mobile user behavior, giving companies real-time information about their mobile visitors, with information about how they connect to the company’s web site.

By putting simple HTML code (image tag) onto their homepage, they can start seeing mobile traffic they haven’t seen before. These simple plug-in tools measure the actual number of mobile phone users hitting a PC website across any connection type and provides detailed metrics of these mobile visitors (including the percentage of mobile traffic as a unique visitor count plus the country, as well as network and device mobile users connect through). It provides the vital data needed by online brands to develop their mobile web strategy, their website and marketing campaigns. More importantly this information enables them to track user behavior, so they can personalize their service and offer a better mobile experience to their mobile visitors.

About the Author

Andy Bovingdon is Vice President of Product Marketing at Bango Inc., a NYC-based provider of mobile billing and mobile analytics services. Reach him at andy@bango.com.


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