Mobile only as a strategy or multiple devices?

Posted by  Gavin Davidson  |  April 24, 2019

Should you only focus on a mobile commerce strategy?

There is a lot of talk over focusing your strategy on mobile only. And here’s why I don’t agree with it, for now at least.

The mobile landscape size. 

As you all know, unless you’re living in a cave, that people are spending more time on the Internet through their smartphones than their desktops. In some countries, such as India and Mexico, the smartphone audience is 4 times bigger compared with desktop. According to the Digital Future in Focus report by comScore, mobile users spend more than double the minutes consuming digital than desktop users.

Mobile app usage

What’s also significant is that 86% of smartphone usage comes through apps and the rest via the web browser on the phone. This is why mobile app SEO is so important. Ok, so why not only focus on mobile?

The mobile advertising landscape. 

Firstly, mobile usage varies throughout the day. This becomes relevant when you are spending money on advertising and you want to get the most out of your budget by targeting your ads at the right time of the day. Also, in global markets, tablet and smartphone usage dominate in the evening, while desktop is still important for advertisers who want to target daytime audiences. This piqued my interest and caused me to start erring on the side of caution whenever I heard phrases like: ‘mobile-first design; or ‘mobile-only seo strategy’ to name but a few.

Data from comScore shows that multiple-device usage remains a majority in most developed markets and in some developing economies as well. This is relevant for businesses who have a global reach, and for South African businesses (where most of my clients are located) who want to target an international market.

Multiple-devices are the majority in most markets.

usage on multiple platforms or devices and desktops in developed economies.

It's not only about mobile usage.

Businesses also need to be cognisant of the different types of activity per device. This behaviour has implications for your online strategy. We spend most of our time on our smartphones, checking emails, sending messages on Whatsapp and using social media. So while mobile may be popular for these types of activities, more in-depth searches, reviews and online purchases are done primarily on desktops. So, think about strategies that engage all activities for the multiple-device majority as part of your strategy.

How should you build your mobile strategy in South Africa?

In South Africa, the picture is rather similar. There are currently 23 million people using the Internet. Most of them access it via their mobile phones. This makes sense as a lot of people are not able to own multiple devices.

There are approximately 30 million smartphones in use, which means a quarter of smartphone users cannot afford data. Out of the 23 million total, only 7.5 million access data via their phones, the rest access data via work or WiFi hotspots as data is seen as too expensive. This will change once more people begin to participate in the economy, data becomes cheaper and infrastructure becomes available outside of major metropolitan areas. 15 million people make use of social media platforms, with 13 million people doing so from their mobile phones. 75% of all Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. So, does this mean that you should focus on mobile-first as a strategy? Well, not really. Here’s why...

Even though the vast majority of traffic comes from mobile devices, people spend more  time on the Internet per day on desktops than on any other platform according to Qwerty Digital.

Digital marketing statistics in South Africa

This is a chart showing the amount of time the average South African spends per day on the Internet on different mediums.Once again, we see desktop come into play. So, if you want to reach your audience which of course you do, then it’s important to know where your audience is and the type of content they are looking at on different mediums and devices. So think twice when your agency or web designers are punting a mobile-first agenda!

Mobile SEO South Africa

As mentioned earlier, we’ve seen mobile usage proliferate, largely driven by social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. However, it’s not only social media that’s driving mobile usage, but search engines as well.

How mobile is driving SEO in South Africa.

This chart shows how much time south africans spend per week searching for information on their mobile phones. 

If we combine “search for product information” with ‘Google search’, considering that most people search for product information on search engines before making a purchase, we see that 36% of activity on mobile is on search compared with desktop at 8%. This is why mobile SEO (search engine optimisation) is so important.

Mobile usability and SEO

Obviously, mobile is growing, that’s why the world’s biggest search engine; Google, has placed a lot of importance on it. Mobile usability is also one the SEO ranking factors that Google uses as a signal to determine where your site will be displayed in their search results. They even have a tool to show you how mobile-friendly your website is and how you can fix it if it’s not. This is to help you identify problems that may be damaging your rankings in their search results.

This is important when you consider that more and more people are typing or asking Google questions from their smartphones, and the search giant obviously wants to show people the best websites for their query.


Yes, mobile is important and growing fast as more people begin to access information from smartphones and search engines begin to prioritise mobile content over desktop. If you don’t have a website that is mobile or an app then you need to get busy right away. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect all devices and platforms.

This is why it’s important to segment your website traffic so that you know where your audience is, which platforms they are using, what they are using it for and which devices they are using them on.

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