iPad Web Traffic Shows Rapid Growth, Browsing Behavior Similar to Desktop

Apple recently announced that over 1 million iPads have been sold in the first 4 weeks of U.S. availability.  With media fervor subsiding and novelty wearing off, we were interested in better understanding how iPad users are browsing the web.  Listed below are three observations related to iPad traffic stats gleaned from some of our retail clients.  It’s important to note that individual marketers show variations in the amount of visits from iPad browsers, so your mileage may vary.

iPad is rapidly gaining share in terms of site visits.  With just a few weeks of availability, the iPad has shown rapid growth and in some cases, has overtaken more established mobile devices in terms of visits.  While iPad visits make up a small proportion of total site visits (typically less than 0.5%), this fast growth shows promise.  Whether this rapid growth rate can be sustained in the longer term remains to be seen.

iPad Traffic Growth

iPad browsing behavior is more similar to desktop than mobile. Average pageviews per visit, bounce rate, and conversion rate from iPad visits tend to be more like desktop browser averages than mobile.  The table below compares site metrics among the most popular mobile devices to the site average – iPad usage is clearly not like the others.  The most likely explanation is the screen size which makes the user experience more like a desktop than a mobile device.  Based on site usage stats, the iPad web browser would be more appropriately classified as a desktop browser in tools like Google Analytics and Omniture SiteCatalyst.  The inability to view Flash content on the iPad is the primary difference, but most savvy online marketers are delivering Flash-free alternatives to the iPad and mobile device visitors.

Mobile Device Site Stats

iPad visits skew toward being email- and search-initiated. We were curious to know what was driving iPad visits to sites and if it differed from desktop usage.  It appears that iPad visits tend to skew more towards being email and search engine driven.  Traffic from email makes sense — the iPad is great for checking email and the ability to click on a promotion to visit a website is obvious.

Search was a little surprising at first although upon closer consideration it makes sense too.  The Safari web browser on the iPad provides an integrated search box.  When launching a new web browser window, text focus goes to the search box instead of the URL field, thereby encouraging individuals to use search as the default method of navigation.  Search results, both natural and paid, will remain an important factor for iPad users. It’s important to note that traffic sources vary greatly from site to site based on factors like industry vertical, marketing programs and brand recognition.

These initial stats seem very promising for the iPad and it will be interesting to see if these patterns hold up beyond the early adopters.  Marketers should examine iPad usage stats for their own websites and work towards making their site iPad-friendly.

Anthony Avolio is Director of Web Analytics at PM Digital.

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