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Desktop isn’t dead – but it is different

Does desktop still have a place in your digital strategy?

I recently had a conversation with a potential client about their digital strategy. They told me that they weren’t going to focus on developing for desktop devices (e.g. PC / Laptops) anymore, as mobile was now the primary screen, and investing in old technology would be a waste of time and money.

It’s easy to understand how they came to this conclusion. We are constantly told to be ‘mobile first’, and there is evidence to show that PC sales are in decline. Even data from Nielsen, who measure all digital consumption behaviour in Australia, show that smartphone sessions continue to climb at a rate of knots, as consumers view more through their handheld devices. But does this mean that desktop is dead, and we should no longer focus on it?

Do people still use desktop devices?

There’s no denying that mobile usage is growing, but this doesn’t mean that people no longer use desktop devices.

In fact, if you look at the most recent trend data from the Nielsen Digital Landscape Report, we see that more Australians used a Desktop (17.9 million) device to access the Internet in July 2017, compared to Smartphones (14.2 million) and for Tablets (7.5 million). Interestingly, this report also shows that despite the sales decline, Desktop reach is only down 1.5% in the last 12 months.

Importantly, this independent currency measures people, across all websites and apps, unlike most web/mobile analytics solutions that measure devices or cookies. This includes mechanisms to de-duplicate the same person who might access the same website or app from different devices. We recently asked about cross-device usage in a survey of people 18 - 54, finding that two thirds (66%) used more than one device type (e.g. desktop and smartphone or desktop and smartphone and tablet) in a typical day, but desktop was still the most common.*

Does this mean I should focus on desktop instead of mobile?

No! Mobile will continue to be an important device for many businesses, and will grow in importance as penetration levels continue to climb, and mobile internet speeds and data packages increase (bring on 5G!). But just because 86% of Australians (14+) have access to a smartphone device according to the IAB, doesn’t mean they want to use it for all online activities.

The key message here is to invest in where your potential customers are. As the most common device in monthly reach, some customers may only access you from desktop (or in certain situations like completing a purchase), and similarly, some customers may only access you from mobile. To exclude one of those will exclude those customers.

The same principle also applies to new devices and platforms. Recent data provided by the IAB, showed that 35% of Australian broadcaster’s online video supply came from Connected TV devices (e.g. Smart TV, Gaming Consoles and OTT devices), so for businesses delivering long form video, these devices will provide important audience reach. Similarly, we are seeing a number of businesses using Messaging Apps for new utilities, like shopping portals, and may therefore be essential for certain categories, if the usage builds to a critical mass.

But how do the devices differ in terms of usage by category?

As part of the same study outlined earlier, we asked people about their digital habits across devices on a typical day. While the main activities (Search, Email and Social Media) were widely used across devices, there were also notable differences.

The following shows the differences in usage by device, as compared to the average. Here we see that Maps, Weather and Social Media had above-average usage on Smartphones; Dating, Automotive and Long-form VOD (e.g. Catch-up TV or SVOD) consumption was above-average for Tablets; and Shopping, Search and Banking was above-average for Desktop.

Different devices are used for different daily habits

Given that many digital businesses rely on e-Commerce for revenue, the data for shopping was a particularly interesting result. Looking at this data in more detail, we saw that people not only browsed online more via desktop devices, but there was a higher conversion rate (‘made a purchase’).

Desktop had higher browsing and purchasing

This is supported by a recent study of US Internet users, which showed that more users completed their purchase on desktop, compared to mobile, regardless of whether they started their purchase journey on desktop, mobile or even in-store!

What does this mean for my digital strategy?

We believe this evidence highlights three key priorities for your digital strategy when it comes to devices :

  1. Continue to invest in digital assets on desktop : At present, more people use desktop devices in a typical month, and will continue to use these devices for years to come. Failing to be available where all your customers are, may limit your opportunity to engage and profit from them.

  2. Be available on all relevant devices, platforms and operating systems : Be sure to be accessible wherever your customer might engage your category, where it makes financial sense. This may mean prioritising some devices over others depending on your category, and will include different device-types/platforms over time, as they build critical mass – e.g. Connected TV devices for Long-form Video. Responsive web and app design is also crucial to ensure that screen size doesn’t restrict access for some customers.

  3. Don’t just trust us, check your own data : Where possible, access currency data sources that measure people, not devices or cookies. Use this data to benchmark your assets versus your category / key competitors to determine gaps in your offering, and use granular analytics data to refine user experience (e.g. iron out pain points in purchase funnels to drive higher conversions).

Desktop is still very much alive and well, and brings reach and unique daily usage, which will remain essential to many digital strategies. As the famous saying goes, “the future is purchased by the present”, so it is important not to short-change certain devices or platforms now to ensure future success.

These slides are available for DOWNLOAD HERE.

* SOURCE : Marketing Scientist – Digital Daily Habits Research. July 2017. Australian online users : 18 - 54 (n = 508).

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