CMOs warned ‘always-on digital’ is becoming a turn-off

angry laptopChief marketing officers are being urged to breathe new life into their online advertising strategies and fix avoidable issues, amid fresh concerns that consumers are growing weary of the “always-on digital world”, following a major slump in overall website traffic, consumption and conversion over the past 12 months.

According to the Contentsquare 2024 Digital Experience Benchmark Report, more than half (55%) of all sites saw lower traffic, nearly three-fifths (58%) saw session consumption fall, and conversion decreased by 5.5%. Meanwhile, 40% of all online visits included customer experience issues, including technical website errors, slow page loads and so-called “rage clicks”.

The report builds on a growing dossier of evidence that digital fatigue is starting to spread. Earlier this week, the latest IMRG Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales of over 200 retailers, revealed that the bottom has fallen out of the ecommerce market.

Meanwhile, a recent Sopro study reported that email-only campaigns have seen a sharp decline in success in the past 12 months with the number of consumers who want to be contacted by post instead doubling.

Moreover, the MTM 2024 From Survival to Revival Report has predicted that consumers will increasingly rein in their reliance on technology to spend less time glued to their smartphones and more time on print media and in-person experiences, as millions turn their backs on the digital revolution.

However, marketers are blindly following the pack, with digital advertising spend set to surpass $740bn in 2024, having grown 9.5% in 2023 to top $600bn for the first time.

While fixing frustration remains an utmost priority across industries, efforts to optimise mobile app performance are paying off, with apps recording steady customer engagement in 2023 (14 pages viewed per online visit up from 13.8 the previous year) and a conversion rate of 5.6% — three times the conversion rate of mobile web traffic. Furthermore, app users spend 64% more time in-app than visitors spend on mobile sites.

Contentsquare chief marketing and partnerships officer Jean-Christophe Pitié said: “Mobile, in particular, is the new competitive battlefield. We’ve seen gains in terms of engagement for apps this year, but mobile optimisation as a whole is not as mature as it could be given the intelligence we have today on customer behaviours and preferences.”

Even so, despite mobile driving 70% of website traffic in Q4 2023, browsing time on mobile web is 60% shorter than on desktop. These “micro-visits” contribute to a decline in conversion rates, highlighting the gap between consumer expectations and current mobile web optimisation practices.

Meanwhile, paid sources drove one-third of all traffic to websites during 2023, and 36% of new visits. For mobile web, paid sources account for 40% of traffic — twice as much as for desktop.

While overall traffic is down, paid social is one of the few channels that saw traffic growth in 2023. However, social traffic struggles to convert compared to paid search, which still drives four times the conversion rate of paid social.

The report indicates that visits from social are less intentional, with a 41% higher bounce rate than paid search. Visitors from social may have inadvertently tapped through to a website because of a compelling story or influencer without the intention embodied by visitors coming from paid search.

Frustrating visitors continues to be an issue. Sites that are slow to load (those taking more than three seconds) and perform poorly in responding to visitor interactions combine to reduce the engagement by 15%.

Well over a third (39.6%) of sessions last year caused users to feel frustrated. No industry felt the effects of frustration more keenly than travel and hospitality, with more than half of visits to these sites marred by this issue.

Rage clicks (clicking at least three times in less than two seconds) continue to frustrate visitors, and were found in 5.5% of all online visits.

Pitié added: “With a dip in global web traffic this year and the cost per visit rising almost 10%, making every visit count is business critical. We know from our previous consumer research that shoppers are leaving sites as a result of frustrations that could be easily resolved.”

The report concluded: “A key contributor to traffic’s slide is a stale marketing mix, which is increasingly reliant on paid channels. The increase in cost per visit is not sustainable, and digital leaders must freshen their sources and reawaken contributions from owned marketing channels.

“With consumption contracting, with fewer page views and less time spent, digital leaders should inject more intelligence in the journey. AI promises to unlock relevance with more curated journeys that will expose visitors to the right content within their ever-condensing visits.”

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