More evidence that the advent of the tablet may be a game-changing disruptive tech: A new report from Forrester Research finds that more than half of US consumers who own both a tablet device and a smartphone say they prefer to shop via the tablet.
While only 12% of all online shoppers now own tablets such as the iPad, the Forrester study—completed in conjunction with Bizrate Insights– claims that tablets currently generate 21% of the traffic flowing from mobile devices of any kind to retailer sites.
The main reasons for this trend to tablets among users who own both boil down to three, according to the study:
- A larger screen: Users say they find it much easier to surf, click on links and fill out forms on the more ample 4” x 6” tablet screen than to perform those actions on even the roomiest smartphone interface.
- Portability: Consumers report moving their tablets to any location conducive to relaxed shopping, which gives the devices an edge over standard PC shopping. At home, the living room is most often the tablet-driven sales floor; but users also take out their tablets in restaurants and airports.
- Richer content than over smartphones: Tablet users can access main Web sites that have not been optimized for mobile devices with fewer issues than smartphone users can. But in addition, respondents to the Forrester survey said that apps built for tablet devices are more engaging and innovative than those on smartphones, often using novel navigation features such as page flipping and horizontal scrolling, and even incorporating audio recognition that can use TV spots to trigger coupon delivery to the device.
The Forrester survey found that tablet users were so engaged that 49% of them reported spending more time online than they had done before owning a tablet. Sixty percent say they have shopped online with their tablet, and 78% of those report placing an order on the device.
The report found that on average, tablet owners spent 28% more per order than non-tablet owners. More than half (56%) say they have downloaded a shopping app to their devices, with branded retail apps leading the pack in popularity.
However, 56% of those who have shopped using their tablets also report experiencing some problems in the process. The most common complaints include a limited Web experience, difficulty clicking on the links they want to open, and the fact that the market-leading Apple iPad and iPad 2 don’t support Flash animation, a tool many Web sites use to increase interactivity. (The coming HTML5 Web standard may alleviate that pain.)
Unlike smartphone users, many tablet users will be able to access large segments of the standard web without noticing any drop-off in function or utility. That calls into question the need to optimize a Web site for mobile access—something smaller retailers and businesses may not have the budget or in-house talent to do.
Writing in a post on the Forrester blog entitled “Why Tablet Commerce May Trump Mobile Commerce” , analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, one of the authors of the report, said, “Now the big question for retailers in particular is: While more people may be increasingly accessing web content on tablets, does that mean that content needs to be specially adjusted for the device, since in most cases you can do nothing and it [still] renders well enough?”
Probably not, she says. But tablets do present a unique chance to deepen customer engagement and make Web shopping more interactive. Mulpuru points to TheFind’s Catalogue and Oakley’s OakleyView as two shopping apps that make effective use of the iPad’s form attributes to create distinctive shopping experiences.
Forrester estimates that the number of tablet users in the US will grow at a compound rate of 51% from 2010 to 2015. Meanwhile mobile commerce overall will increase from $3 billion in 2010 to $31 billion by 2016.