State of Mobile 2022 – Trends, Traffic and Transition

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Just a few short years ago, mobile’s dominance over web traffic seemed irrefutable. All trends pointed to a seemingly unstoppable takeover of mobile from desktop traffic as mobiles became the dominant connected device for many users the world over. Then Covid hit, and as people were locked down at home, primary mobile access to the internet dipped. 

Just a few short years ago, mobile’s dominance over web traffic seemed irrefutable. All trends pointed to a seemingly unstoppable takeover of mobile from desktop traffic as mobiles became the dominant connected device for many users the world over. Then Covid hit, and as people were locked down at home, primary mobile access to the internet dipped. 

Our latest comprehensive report into the State of Mobile in 2022 has found that even as the world emerges from pandemic lockdowns, mobile web traffic has not regained its pre-pandemic dominance. But what does this mean? Is desktop really making a resurgence, and how does this impact strategies? We looked at the mobile web and app landscape to analyze year-on-year mobile penetration trends and pinpoint a few insights that will shape the mobile landscape in years to come.

Firstly, that surprising finding. Over a year on from initial pandemic lockdowns being relaxed from country to county, mobile is still regaining its pre-Covid traffic share. Just looking at global mobile traffic trends between April 2021 and May 2022, there are 30% fewer mobile surfers now than in May of last year—and the difference between strict measures being in place (even accounting for varying geographic regulations) is a drastic one between the two dates.

For years now, observers have looked at mobile traffic and traditional laptop use as two ends of a seesaw – as mobile rises, desktop continues to dip. This has informed many development strategies of growing mobile-first optimization and preferences. However, these current trends suggest there is no direct correlation between the extent of mobile penetration and the growth of desktop vs. the pandemic-related restrictions.

And we’ve found more proof. When we compared mobile and desktop traffic share, we spotted no link between mobile traffic and strict lockdowns. For example in Australia and Canada, countries with the longest-standing COVID measures, mobile traffic share is much higher than in the US where we saw a softer take on lockdowns. This implies that our previously taken-for-granted notion that “people turned to desktop as they were forced to stay at home” doesn’t necessarily hold true. 

 This drop in mobile traffic also impacted the app landscape. Our report looked at year-on-year app downloads across both Google Play and Apple’s IOS store. The three-year downloads data also trended downward across iOS. Some of the most popular app categories—Games and Shopping—saw 20% fewer downloads in April 2021-March 2022 vs. the same period in the previous year. Things were slightly more stable in the Android ecosystem, as almost every app category aside from Games witnessed a YoY rise in installs. Another key finding in our analysis was the contribution of direct traffic, when looking at mobile volumes exclusively. We looked in particular at the source for mobile traffic across five key sectors; finance, retail, education, food & beverage and healthcare. Direct traffic proved the primary source across the board – meaning that brand awareness campaigns as well as in built loyalty programmes can go a long way when it comes to improving traffic share.

Search also remains an important factor, so brands seeking to make more of an impact still need to maintain a good balance of strategies if they are to maximize their returns. Another finding of note when looking at sector-specific trends; finance proved the only market segment that managed to improve ad spend efficiency while also growing the number of video impressions. Other sectors could likely gain by assessing their campaigns from this period to see if they can replicate this success.   

So, what does this overview of the mobile traffic landscape in 2022 teach us? If the pre-pandemic era was about mobile-first approaches and expectations about the decline of desktop, we’re now seeing different trends emerge. But it doesn’t mean ‘mobile is dead’. Far from it. We’re still seeing mobile traffic dominate across the board. For those who want to win the digital game, omni-channel tactics remain the answer. Strategies should be assessed to ensure that desktop is not set to one side in favor of mobile-predominant tactics.

A balance of approaches which can feed direct traffic, SEO and even creative use of video are proving successful in striking the right balance when reaching people. This combination also implies that strategies have to be backed by an impeccable user experience for whatever device your audience is using.In essence, don’t put all the eggs into one digital basket. 

Perhaps the most important takeout when looking at the State of Mobile at the moment is that current behavior can no longer be directly attributed to the pandemic. Behaviors didn’t immediately snap back to their pre-Covid natures, despite different countries’ approaches to removing lockdown measures. Those looking to really make a mark need to assess their strategies to make sure they are based on current customer activities and actions, rather than insights that may have stood firm months or years ago.Being device-agnostic, focusing on the user experience first, and ensuring a rounded approach from brand awareness campaigns through to performance strategies is the best way to navigate this still unsettled and transitional period.  

By Fernando Angulo, Influencer Lead, Semrush