Desktop vs. Mobile Audiences — What Works Best in 2023?

Gabriela Cendrzak

The big mobile vs. desktop debate keeps dividing even the most experienced of marketers. For a long time, there was this preconceived notion that one day, mobile will once and for all become the dominant source of traffic. This idea seemed to be coming true, with desktop Internet usage dropping steadily in favor of mobile devices… but then there came 2020, and with it the biggest shift in Internet usage up to date.

With the situation getting more stable now, let’s take the opportunity to take a look at current mobile vs. desktop usage trends and analyze how they affect the realm of performance marketing. If there’s anything the shifting sands of affiliate marketing have taught us already, it’s to never take things for granted.

Read on to see what performs best for both mobile and desktop devices and plan your campaigns accordingly.

In 2019, mobile domination seemed inescapable. According to a study completed by BroadbandSearch, in 2019 53% of total web traffic came from mobile users. Given the IAB Advertising Revenue Report, the mobile traffic had not only won the user engagement rates but significantly contributed to advertising profits, too. 

Naturally, it doesn’t mean desktop traffic went completely dead in 2019 and wasn’t responsible for generating profit. The 2019 desktop advertising revenue varied depending on ad formats, categories, and targeted audiences, but it was still there. Nevertheless, its growth curve was incomparable to that of mobile traffic. 

Mobile and Desktop Internet Usage During The Pandemic 

While the end of 2019 made it quite clear what to expect in the near future, the beginning of 2020 came down crashing it all. Global lockdowns affected not only the daily operations of many businesses but also the way people went around their days. Suddenly, many of us were not running errands around the city with a smartphone in hand but were stuck home with much more free time than usual. And given the choice between using a small and big screen, many chose the latter.

Mobile usage was still peaking, but surprisingly enough, while its usage grew, the revenue it generated dropped. According to eMarketer, mobile advertising declined during the pandemic, despite increased time spent.

This unexpected outcome has been caused by the sole purpose of why users engage with mobile devices. Although social distancing and #stayhome movements encouraged people to shift their focus to the online reality, the type of content they engaged with wasn’t the one responsible for generating profits. The available insights pointed out that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, people used mobile devices mainly for communication purposes, leaving little room for advertising content.

Mobile vs. Desktop Usage Statistics in 2023

Where are we now, three years after the outbreak? Digital media consumption is still incredibly high, but the way we engage with our mobile devices changed once again. The statistics on mobile internet usage as opposed to desktop web traffic tend to fluctuate on a monthly basis. According to Statcounter, at the beginning of the year, mobile domination was significant, reaching 59% of the share. Come May, it went down to 50%, with desktop usage stats reaching as high as 47%.

The key takeaway is – while mobile statistics are usually more favorable, desktop internet usage doesn’t seem to go anywhere. In 2022, there were periods during which it dropped as low as 37%, yet it keeps returning, never really losing its relevancy.

What’s probably the most telling piece of data here are conversion rates. While mobile devices may generate more traffic, their average conversion rate is 2,2%. For desktops, this statistic is 3,7%.

According to Magenest, by the end of 2022 spending on mobile advertisements surpassed that on desktop ads, although by barely a small margin. According to estimates, in 2023 most brands and performance marketers are dividing their budgets 50:50 between mobile and desktop advertisements.

Captivating Desktop Users in 2023

Desktop usage statistics clearly show that it has a lot of advantages that consumers appreciate. For example, a fixed internet connection is 29.2 Mbps faster than that available on mobile phones. It’s no wonder that users prefer to spend more time on desktop websites than on mobile ones.

Many also find it more comfortable to browse through multiple websites using a full keyboard, a mouse, and a large screen. What’s interesting is that while as much as 58% of all multi-device purchases are completed on a mobile phone, statistics show that the bigger buys are usually done on a desktop.

When planning to spend a significant amount of money, consumers engage in a multi-step research process, which is easier to do on a laptop or a PC than on their mobile counterparts. This is why big household appliances and furniture, expensive electronic devices, or foreign trips are so often bought on desktop computers.

Improving Desktop Conversion Rates

  • Mind the design. Websites browsed on desktops are usually more busy and more crowded, so it is harder to stand out.
  • Think about the size. Keep in mind that desktop users have a much larger display, so your advertisement should be appropriately scaled up. Shapes are also important – while a standard mobile device is longer than it is wide, it’s quite the opposite for desktops.
  • A/B testing is always a good idea. Even seemingly irrelevant factors, such as wording choice, colors, or CTA placement may change how well your ad converts. Trying multiple different visuals, analyzing results, and optimizing the campaign accordingly is the most effective strategy.

Reaching Mobile Internet Users in 2023

As of 2023, an incredible 91% of the world’s population have a mobile phone, with 5.18 billion having access to the Internet. In the US, people use their phones 5.5 hours each day on average – almost a third of their waking hours in some cases.

Nowadays, social media are responsible for 25% of digital media consumption. Some of these social media channels are accessible (or can be used in their full capacity) only on smartphones. For brands and marketers who want to appeal to audiences of Instagram or TikTok, it’s something to be mindful of.

Improving Mobile Conversion Rates

  • Keep it brief. With a smaller display comes even less incentive to engage with long pieces of content. Make sure to not be overbearing with your message.
  • Simplify the layout. Whenever you are designing a mobile version of your campaign, think about it as a lighter, simplified edition. Make sure CTAs are short, snappy, and to the point. If you are including forms, ensure they have a clear layout and are easy to fill. Avoid lengthy sentences and designs that are visually busy.
  • Test it. Again, constant optimization is a must. Even if you are satisfied with the performance of a certain campaign, there is always a possibility of an even better result with a few tweaks here and there.


Every now and then someone loudly proclaims that desktop internet usage dropped so low, that it’s no longer profitable to cater to the needs of desktop internet users. Each time this conclusion is grossly overexaggerated. Yes, mobile users’ share on the market is impressive, and social media usage keeps peaking, but there are still areas in which desktop dominates – even if looking simply at internet traffic rates by a device may convince you otherwise.

Both mobile and desktop users are important when you are planning your campaigns. However, which group will be your priority is mainly determined by the niche you are operating in. You may want to focus on mobile users if you are promoting beauty products, while campaigns for big household appliances work best when optimized for desktop devices.

There is no golden rule for estimating which kind of traffic is ultimately better — desktop or mobile. Depending on the kind of campaign you’re running, the industry, and the offer you choose to promote, various targeting options should be employed.

The truth is, it’s not about the traffic, but rather about adjusting your advertising strategies to what’s currently trending. Consider factors such as seasonal trends, the latest fashion, or economic shifts. At the end of the day, it’s really about listening to your audience and adjusting your campaigns accordingly.

Drive incremental performance to your brand

with commerce media solutions for advertisers & publishers!

Learn more

Gabriela Cendrzak

Zeropark Logo
CentralNic Logo