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How Will Tablets Affect eCommerce?

As we mentioned in our eCommerce Year in Review blog post at the beginning of the year, the iPad was the tech darling of 2010 and added a new way to sell online which some industry experts are dubbing “t-commerce” (tablet commerce). As we near the halfway point in 2011 the tablet market continues to boom with the release of the iPad 2 and a new host of proclaimed “iPad killers” including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, and BlackBerry PlayBook. While the competition in the tablet arena has certainly heated up, the iPad is still head and shoulders above all of its competitors, accounting for almost 1% of the total browser market. While 1% may not seem like much, the total is 53 times greater than the iPad’s closest competitor (the Galaxy Tab) and clearly cements the iPad as the tablet device to focus on for the current future.

As the growth of the tablet market continues, how will these new devices affect eCommerce? Some of the information released thus far is pretty shocking…

  • Consumers enjoy the online shopping experience more on a tablet: In the same study from The E-tailing Group 69% of respondents who own both tablets and smartphones rated the tablet shopping experience as either “significantly better” or “somewhat better” than shopping via smartphone. In addition, a recent New York Times article highlighted how retailers are offering more of a “catalog feel” with tablet devices to allow consumers to interact more with products they are looking to purchase online.
  • Consumers are more likely to purchase clothing and accessories on tablets: Although books and magazines are still the most popular purchases on both mobile and tablet devices, there is some discrepancy when it comes to apparel purchases. Tablet users are 11% more likely to purchase clothing and accessories than smartphone users and tablet users are also almost twice as likely to purchase gifts and collectibles compared to smartphone users.

While some eCommerce professionals may want to lump together tablets and smartphones as “mobile devices”, the data above on usage could revise this train of thought. Retailers may want to look at their industry and their own web analytics to determine what plan of action is necessary for portable devices.

Apple is certainly leading the “mobile” charge… but what will they come up with next? Is the “iBoard” really that unrealistic? The iMat, on the other hand…

It’s also apparent that Apple is still a key player in leading not only technology trends but also eCommerce trends. While retailers should not blindly follow in Apple’s footsteps, there is no denying Apple is certainly top of mind with a large and growing segment of consumers when their latest products are released. What follows the iPad remains to be seen, but given the success of Apple’s previous devices the list of early adopters from the retail sector should only continue to grow for their next device.

In short, the tablet market has increased the expectations of consumers and their “mobile” shopping experience. Consumers are using smartphones to buy more commodity goods such as books and tickets and using their tablets for more unique apparel and gift purchases. Tablets can affect eCommerce by increasing the level of consumer interaction, in particular by utilizing the touch screen capabilities and increased screen size which are not present on the less robust smartphone devices. This interaction can enrich the experience of shopping online and allows retailers to meet the expectations of the modern day consumer.