skip to Main Content

How Mobile Phones and Tablets Differ in eCommerce

By default, when tablets were introduced into the technology marketplace they were dubbed as “mobile” devices due to their ability to be used everywhere and the ease of obtaining internet connectivity through wireless providers, similar to mobile phones. But are tablets truly “mobile” devices anymore, especially in the eCommerce space?

Our web analytics specialist, Jacob Knettel, conducted some original research to see if tablets are still worthy of the mobile tag or if they have differentiated themselves from the smaller mobile phone devices…

Our research is a compilation of data from twelve PFSweb clients (six consumer goods and six retail clients) from the first quarter of 2013, although some data from previous months is also used for comparative purpouses. On average, each site received approximately 1.2 million visitors per month and a total of 15.2 million visits per month combined across all twelve sites.


The percentage of visits on eCommerce sites from desktop and laptop devices continues to decrease while visits from mobile phones and tablet devices continues to increase. Over time, the percentage of site visits from different devices may be more evenly spread across devices instead of being dominated by desktop and laptop devices.


Although mobile phones and tablet devices are making up a larger percentage of site visits, this does not necessarily mean that the amount of visits from laptop and desktop devices is decreasing. In fact, desktop and laptop visits continue to increase, indicating that consumers are visiting online retail sites more often as a whole.


Mobile phones may account for 22% of all site visits but the devices only account for 5% of site sales. Tablets accounted for more than twice as many sales as mobile devices despite driving 8% less traffic. Desktops and laptops still remain as the only devices to account for a greater percentage of sales than they do site visits.


Somewhat surprising, tablet users were actually 17% more likely to view product pages than desktop and laptop users and a rather sizable 81% more likely than mobile phone users.


Desktop and laptop devices still have the highest conversion rate (2.9%) but tablet devices (2.4%) are not far behind and have a percentage three times higher than mobile phones (0.8%).


Mobile phones have an average visit length over one minute less than both tablet and desktop devices, which have an almost identical average visit length of slightly less than five minutes.

In short, it just might be time to separate mobile phones and tablet devices – if anything tablets appear more similar to desktop and laptop devices, at least from a usage perspective. Over time, it could become increasingly more important for online retailers to specifically optimize the mobile phone user experience (i.e. feature store locator pages) based on usage statistics instead of trying to replicate a commerce experience already found on tablet, desktop, and laptop devices. With this in mind, the next time online retailers use research around mobile devices to drive business decisions make sure you understand the classification of the “mobile” term used within the research – if tablets are included, the data likely does not truly reflect mobile devices due to the difference in usage between tablets and mobile phones.