Smartphone Conversions: The Uncrossable Chasm

Monday we ran my video talking about how TV ads don’t matter anymore, largely because of changing viewing habits. Tuesday morning, I came in and saw a chart from eMarketer showing that 96 percent of Americans go online while watching TV, 79 percent from smartphones. Hallelujah! All of those viewers can respond to your TV ads! … If it worked that way, I certainly wouldn’t be making videos about how TV ads don’t matter.

Monday, we ran my video talking about how TV ads don’t matter anymore, largely because of changing viewing habits. Tuesday morning, I came in and saw this chart from eMarketer, showing that 96 percent (!) of Americans go online while they’re watching TV, 79 percent from their smartphones.

91.6% of U.S. Internet users go online through one or more devices while watching TV.Hallelujah! All of those viewers are just a web address and a swipe from converting off of your TV ads!

If it worked that way, I think all the old media would be in a lot better shape. I certainly wouldn’t be making videos about how TV advertising doesn’t matter anymore.

Smartphones Don’t Play Well With Others

The thing is, I watch TV every night with my smartphone and/or laptop by my side. In fact, I’m at home watching TV as I write this.

There have been a few days I’ve used that time to go to the website of a catalog I got in the mail, especially if I have a laptop out. (That’s your best case scenario if you send me a catalog, by the way: I go to your website on a laptop, there’s a chance I buy something, and I might sign up for your newsletter.)

I can’t remember ever doing that for a TV ad.

The problem is huge with smartphones, which have the lowest e-commerce conversion rates of any device. And by lowest, I mean conversion rates a fraction of what you see on tablets or traditional computers. According the “Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly Report for Q4 2015,” e-commerce conversion rates on traditional computers in the U.S. are 4.66 percent and tablets are 3.89 percent, but smartphone visitors convert at only 1.43 percent.

While more and more people watching TV are also tapping around on their phones, getting them to interact with you and actually buy something is almost a lost cause.

No Sign of the Invisible Bridge

That’s been the story since smartphones were invented, and it comes down to both the interface, and what people are doing while they’re on smartphones.

Tapping a web address into a phone is really difficult (and swiping isn’t even an option). That discourages people from using their phones to go to your e-commerce site from a commercial or other ad. Inputting the address, credit card and the other information needed to complete a sale is even worse.

If you want a recipe for conversion rates that are a third of other channels, that’s it. And it’s a well-recognized issue. Over the years many technologies have tried, and are still trying, to bridge that gap.

On the interface side, several startups have tried introducing tech to make it easier, from optical techniques like QR Codes and image recognition, to audio recognition like Shazam.