Online Shopping: Tablets (iPads) Versus Smartphones [Charts]

Tablets Win For Shopping

Marketers are debating whether it’s worth investing in providing their offering on tablets, particularly the iPad. Added to this is the challenge many that online retailers are still trying to get their mobile strategy on track.

While tablets only account for a small percentage of users, tablets are poised to more than double their US installed base penetration in 2011 to 7.6% of the population or 24 million devices according to eMarketer. Two out of five consumers likely to purchase an iPad cited shopping as a reason for their interest based on November 2010 Research by Vision Critical. This should come as no surprise since online shopping is a visual experience whether its text, photography or video, and tablets are highly touted as content consumption devices.

Early results show that targeting tablet owners is effective, based on e-tailing research via eMarketer. One in ten tablet owners used their device to browse or buy online every day versus 6% of smartphone owners. Once owners start buying on a tablet they come back. Nearly 25% had made at least six purchases during the past six months, compared with 15% of smartphone users who had done they same. Further, tablet owners tend to be early adopters who buy gadgets. Pew Internet and American Life Project and Forrester Research found that iPad owners tend to be young, educated and affluent, making them an ideal target audience.  

Consumers preferred the tablet experience (88% thought it was satisfactory or very satisfactory) to that of a smartphone (73% thought it was satisfactory or very satisfactory). This is largely attributable to the tablet’s larger screen and better user functionality for browsing.

Of course, this consumer behavior is understandable because, while smartphones are great for shopping at retail or gathering information on-the-go, they’re not that user-friendly especially for extended research activities.  In part, this is attributable to the fact that, while roughly one in two consumers say that they’re more likely to buy from retailers who have a mobile site, less than 5% of retailers have one according to October 2010 Brand Anywhere and Luth Research research.

To help start your tablet shopping experience, here are four suggestions

  1. Take advantage of tablet’s visual presentation. Use both photography and video to give shoppers in-store experience via their tablet. Just don’t use flash.
  2. Test content formatting and presentation rendering on a tablet. Don’t assume that your current website will provide an optimal user experience.
  3. Be prepared for purchase. Go beyond show and tell. Ensure that prospects can purchase if they’ve seen enough to persuade them.
  4. Provide alternative purchase options. At a minimum, include an 800 number and physical address.

Now is a good time to start testing tablets to enhance your shopping experience especially if your products are highly visual in nature or need to be seen in the environment in which they’ll be used. Bear in mind that tablets and smartphones fulfill different shopping needs for consumers and you shouldn’t choose one option over the other.

Have you developed a mobile and/or tablet retail site? If so, what was your experience? Please share your insights in the comments section.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström via Flickr.

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