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This week, we speak to Chris Smith, online marketing manager at Autoglass, about the company’s bid to boost customer acquisition through a new .mobi site.

We ask about the pluses and minuses of mobile development and which mobile channels are best for generating ROI.

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What are your plans in the mobile space? Why did you launch a .mobi site?

We’re testing the water. People keep saying that "this year will be the year of mobile", and I’m sure it will come one day, so I want to make sure Autoglass is there when it does.

The site is just a very stripped-down version of the main site. We are asking people to call us on the number on the page. If you find a brick through your windscreen in the morning, the one thing you are almost guaranteed to have about your person is a mobile.

Our main site is not currently optimised for mobile phones, so this is a bit of a test. Ultimately, I would like to do clever stuff on the main site with device detection, but for the moment, we are running it as a separate .mobi site.

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How are you measuring traffic? How good a selection of analytics tools is out there for mobile sites?

The site soft-launched at the tail-end of last year and we only really actively started promoting it in April. This was because initially, we had great trouble finding a way of tracking traffic to it. I didn’t want to spend money on advertising if I couldn’t measure the result, and what people were doing on the site.

We were using Google Analytics, but obviously that is not really geared up for mobile as it uses JavaScript, which most mobiles are not geared up to handle. It would tell us we had 100% direct visitors and so on, but it wouldn’t give me any breakdown on where those visitors were coming from. It was obvious it wasn’t really a workable solution for mobile.

I stumbled across Bango by accident, when I was looking for a tracking solution. We have been using its analytics solution for the last three and a half months. That’s now my main tracking tool for the .mobi site.

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How much did the site cost to develop, and how quick was it to set up?

It was quite cheap - around £2,000. We used our existing developers and had it up and running quite quickly.

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Where is your traffic coming from? Presumably most people don’t actually type in ‘autoglass.mobi’ into their phone.

The bulk is through paid activity. We are in Google’s mobile natural results - you will find us if you type in ‘windscreen repair’, but I am also using paid search on Yahoo. We have also had banner activity running on AutoTrader’s WAP site.

We will be starting paid search on Google shortly. We started on Yahoo initially because from what I read, they were slightly ahead of Google on mobile and they were quite keen to do a case study with us. I’m now looking to expand it to do paid activity on Google as well.

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How does ROI compare between search and display?

Search is converting extremely well, although it is not as good on the banner side of things. But that’s the same on the normal web - windscreens are not something you shop around for.

Search has a better return on investment than display, but display gives us a lot of visibility. It puts us in front of a lot of people and a lot of people are clicking through, but I think a lot of that is because of curiousity rather than anything else. I think a lot of people are probably clicking on the ads because they are prominent.

I am also very interested to see if the traffic patterns are the same on the mobile web as they are on the web. Search is very, very important to us - we are a distress purchase; you don’t go shopping for a new windscreen because you fancy a new one. You have a definite need for it.

I was interested to see if there was a similar thing on the mobile web. It appears that there is. We get a lot of visitors through display, but the ones that convert are coming through search.

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How do PPC click through rates (CTRs) and traffic compare between keywords on mobile and traditional search?

The CTRs are pretty similar. Autoglass has good brand recognition and a lot of our traffic comes through searches for "Autoglass".

Traffic is obviously miniscule on .mobi sites. There’s plenty of room for growth. More and more people are using the mobile web on a daily basis but the figures are still tiny compared with autoglass.co.uk.

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Are you looking to build location awareness into the site?

One thing I would like to do is to enable the site, so that if you search for "windscreen repair" and come to the site, you have a page showing your nearest Autoglass branches. We have a branch locator at the moment, but it’s manual. I would like to add more and more features like that in.

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What are the main things you need to watch out for when developing a .mobi site?

We didn’t use a dedicated mobile agency to develop the site, so it was a learning experience for everybody.

As far as building the site is concerned, getting it to look halfway decent on different phone browsers is a challenge. Looking at the site on a Nokia is very different to looking at it on a Blackberry. That has been a bit of a headache for us. I’ve looked at other companies sites’ and I can see we are not alone in that.

On dev.mobi, there are emulators that show how your site looks on different handsets. The data we have got from Bango has also been helpful, as you can see which handsets are most commonly being used to access the site.

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How is Vodafone’s controversial transcoding platform affecting traffic to the site from its subscribers? Have you had the site white-listed by Vodafone?

We haven’t done that, which is why Vodafone doesn’t appear very often in our stats. I think 3 and Orange are top. That’s something for the to-do list.

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Published 29 July, 2008 by Richard Maven

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