Desktop OS & CTR: Opportunities Abound Depending On Target Market

Despite the growing impact of mobile devices on the Web browsing ecosystem as a whole, desktop users still generate the lion’s share of North American Internet traffic. This is particularly true during business hours, when desktop Web browsing reaches a prolonged peak.

It’s important for marketers to recognize that this sector has remained anything but stagnant, and strategies can and should be adjusted as user behavior shifts.

desktop os chart

Based on a sample of tens of millions of ad impressions seen on the Chitika Ad Network through the final week in June 2013, Windows users far outpace their Mac OS X and Linux cohorts in terms of Web traffic generated. Using Windows traffic volume as an index, Mac OS X users generate about 10% of Windows’ volume, and Linux users, about 2%.

As this distribution remains largely unchanged since previous studies on the subject, it’s reasonable to assume that Windows will remain the market leader for some time, particularly as a result of its strong legacy in business. But even with this share dominance in mind, how does Windows stack up to Mac OS X and Linux in terms of click-through rate (CTR), one of the most commonly cited metrics of advertising effectiveness?



As seen in the graph above, a Linux OS user is 80% as likely to click an ad as a Windows user. Similarly, a Mac OS X user is 93% as likely to click an ad as a Windows user. In other words, Windows users engage with ads 25% more than Linux users and 7.5% more Mac OS X users. Despite its smaller share, Linux user CTR is within striking distance of the rate demonstrated by Mac OS X users.

The CTR gap between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux denotes that while users of all three operating systems are receptive to online advertising, Mac OS X and Linux users click on ads with a slightly lower frequency. Linux’s reputation as an operating system for the tech savvy makes its users part of a group which is generally seen as less susceptible to advertisements, and the data support that in this case. (However, CTR in relation to browser choice — also sometimes seen as an indicator of a user’s technical knowledge — doesn’t always adhere to this pattern.)

Users of these three most popular operating systems each represent a viable advertising target. However, due to the large differences in terms of user base and aggregate user activity, and hence, demographics and interests, each OS presents its own set of challenges for marketers and advertisers.

In this comprehensive article outlining the differences between each operating system, several key criteria emerge in terms of the values consumers and businesses decide upon when purchasing an OS:

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Ease-of-use in a corporate setting
  • Performance
  • User-interfaces
  • Ease-of-use for file organization and application configuration

Each take on varying degrees of importance depending on the user, and that manifests itself in what OS is ultimately chosen. The need for customization for performance may shy some away from Apple desktops, but if the user interface and applications are of more value, a user may be more likely choose that OS (e.g., graphic designers and other creative workers).

For marketers and advertisers, understanding how the user processes their purchase decision can provide better insight into how to target certain consumers. Using OS choice as a means to discern underlying demographic characteristics (such as Linux users being highly tech-savvy and valuing flexibility) can pay dividends. For operating systems with much larger user bases, OS version can provide a better key into this information.

There is a lot of room for innovation in advertising and marketing for each OS, but each subset of users presents different opportunities. For Windows, its long-time existence in the marketplace has resulted in a wide array of users, from business users to personal computer users – making it one of the go-to optimization targets for campaigns with broad appeal.

For Mac OS X, its user base is smaller and a bit more defined. Many graphic design and creative professionals, for example, are dedicated to the operating system. Its ease-of-use has made it a solid choice in smaller business settings, and campaigns targeting these users may see more success on Mac OS X.

For Linux, the smaller community presents a very unique set of user wants and needs relating to its open source and customization backbone.

Regardless of which market makes sense for a particular campaign, the data show each user base responds to online ads at different, but comparable rates, making success on any of the three an attainable goal.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Apple | Channel: Analytics | Microsoft


About The Author: is a Data Solutions Engineer at Chitika and a lead author for reports by Chitika Insights, the research arm of the online ad service. After graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration from Ithaca College, Gabe has been pursuing his passion for technology by researching and analyzing new and emerging trends in the online world.

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