Device Demographics: Where To Find Your Audience

September 2023



Back in the long-ago mists of history — also known as 2005 — advertisers and market analysts coined a brand-new term: “Cyber Monday.” At the time, online shopping was only just beginning to become the economic powerhouse it would one day grow into, and a lot of Americans didn’t yet have the sort of high-speed internet that would allow them to do all their holiday shopping online. The one place that Americans had fast, reliable, high-bandwidth internet access was the one place they couldn’t get caught using it: at their jobs.

Naturally, shoppers did it anyway. While you could get a lot of door-busting deals on Black Friday, many turkey-stuffed Americans realized they could wait until the Monday after the long weekend, log in on that sweet, sweet cable or DSL and take care of half their holiday shopping without ever needing to stand in line outside a Best Buy. And so, a new holiday-shopping tradition was born: but coming up on 20 years later, the term seems almost quaint, and many people under the age of 30 or so would be baffled about its origins.

And that’s the rub when it comes to online devices: the landscape is always changing. While 20 years ago, online shopping was a privilege reserved for educated folks with office jobs, nowadays people of every stripe and demographic engage in the practice. And while 20 years ago the only thing you could buy on your phone was a ringtone, mobile devices are taking an increasingly-large slice of the ecommerce pie.

The Growing Mobile Market

Ten years ago, the majority of online traffic still happened on desktop devices. As of Q1 2023, nearly 2/3rds of all online purchases now happen via mobile devices, with most of the remaining third happening on desktop. Browsing, on the other hand, happens slightly differently: mobile devices are responsible for nearly three-quarters of all traffic share, with most of the rest on desktop devices. This suggests that some folks feel comfortable browsing on their phones but switch over to their laptop or PC when it’s time to make a purchase, or that some mobile-phone traffic doesn’t translate directly into sales. (See what we have to say about mobile-phone ads in our blog).

As of 2022, consumers aged between 25-34 made up the bulk of online shoppers, which tracks with the previous numbers: younger consumers are more comfortable with mobile devices than their older counterparts, and they’re more likely to shop online.

Demographically, then, if you’ve got a product you want to sell — and you’re looking to sell it online — you’re going to need to keep mobile phones in mind to attract your target audience.

Desktop Demographics

Desktop can’t be discounted in this process, however. For one thing, the devices themselves are more expensive — a laptop costs more than a phone, a desktop costs more than a laptop — so the people utilizing them are either at an office job, or potentially have more disposable income than phone users. The difference in ratios between desktop/mobile traffic and desktop/mobile purchases suggests that desktop users have fewer “looky-loos,” and this may be the reason.

Desktop users may also run a little older than mobile users: it’s an older technology that older people have had more time to get used to. With large buttons and bigger screens, they’re more accessible for people with vision deficiencies. If you’ve got a product or service that might find traction with an older audience – or if you’re just looking for people with more money to spend – desktop traffic may be the way to go.

Tablet Demographics

Tablets account for a much-smaller portion of the online commerce market, both in terms of traffic and actual purchases. Taking up about 2% of the pie, who is using tablets in a dedicated manner? The young and the old, mostly.

While the middle generations are comfortable with their phones, and the middle-aged folks are content with computers, very young people still don’t have phones of their own, and the elderly often find smartphones too unwieldy to use with things like weaker eyesight and less-dexterous fingers.

So what that means is, don’t let that “2%” statistic fool you: depending on the product or service you’ve got on offer, that could mean there are a whole lot of very-relevant, very-motivated people in a position to see your advertising. We’ve seen ad campaigns where the bulk of the sales traffic came from tablets, as a product resonated particularly-well with older demographics.

Adaptability is Key

Insticator’s various commenting and content-engagement products are designed with this sort of thing in mind: our widgets come pre-set with multiple different sizes and layouts, so that when a user calls up the comments beneath an article, the panel sizes to fit the user’s phone. Content that can’t be read easily on a certain device is content that will go ignored, and you have to be ready to counter that.

Similarly, your own content pages and product-sales funnels should be optimized for this kind of flexibility. If your homepage is only designed for desktops, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of potential traffic. Making sure that mobile-friendly versions of your page load automatically when the situation calls for it is a great way to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.

20 years from now, the online landscape will probably, again, look very different than it does today. People may be shopping directly from their smart devices around their home, using a smart fridge to stock up on groceries or ordering dinner via their car. Staying on top of emerging trends, and making sure you’re positioned to capitalize on them, is the key to staying ahead in adtech.

Written by
Sean Kelly, Senior Content Writer

Sean Kelly is a Senior Content Specialist, St. Louis-based engagement expert with 20 years of experience in content writing, and 8 years in adtech.

Sean Kelly

Written by

Sean Kelly, Senior Content Writer