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Small Tablets and eCommerce – The Next Step in Mobile?

Small Tablets and eCommerce
Technology simply never ceases to change. Our gadgets continue to get smaller, faster, lighter, smarter, and better. One of the most innovative changes in recent months has been the debut of the “mini tablet”, in particular the iPad Mini, the Kindle Fire HD, the Nook HD, and the Nexus 7. At lower price points than tablets with larger screens, the speculation around the impact of these smaller tablets has been huge – they are devices which are viewed as less of a luxury item than full-sized tablets and more as a low price alternative to the traditional PC or tablet experience.

So what impact will these small tablets have on the eCommerce industry?

  • Smaller screen will continue to encourage responsive design – With yet another screen size for developers to work with the push toward responsive design sites continues to get stronger. Responsive design has been a recent “buzz word” in the eCommerce industry and involves using style sheets to re-purpose and optimize content depending on the device (PC, tablet, smartphone) and browser resolution used. While it’s not necessarily recommended that responsive design should immediately take the place of mobile sites, this new industry trend will definitely be a consideration online retailers will have in mind as they roll out new versions of their site in the future, especially with the emergence of these smaller tablets.
  • Less content means bigger calls to action – It is important for online retailers to remember that these new smaller tablets are only a step up from mobile devices and thus suffer from some similar issues as these devices, albeit to a lesser extent. One of these issues relates to the smaller screen size and how it can be difficult for an online retailer to place all of their desired content (such as product reviews/ratings, product descriptions, and product images) on product pages containing only a small amount of real estate. One mistake to avoid is attempting to put too much content on the page and decrease the calls to actions – a tactic which makes the checkout flow more difficult for consumers and could decrease the conversion rate. Similar to mobile devices, it will be important for online retailers to simplify their site design and navigation on small tablets and remove certain content types (i.e. hover content and Flash) to accommodate the technical specifications of these new devices.
  • Location based advertising will become more prevalent – It’s hard to deny that tablets have revolutionized the way consumers interact with content online. However, research has shown tablets aren’t necessarily “mobile” devices and that most tablet users use their devices at home and in the evening. With the smaller tablets being essentially a half smartphone/half tablet from a usability perspective, an argument could certainly be made that consumers will be more likely to use these small tablets on the go thanks to their reduced size. Holding a new, small tablet in one hand is an easy task, not something that could be said with many tablet models of the past. This could make smaller tablets an ideal device for retailers to target consumers with location based advertising, especially given that the larger screen size compared to smartphones will create more ad/creative real estate. It also could become a key device for retailers to utilize in obtaining both an online and offline presence for their omni-channel commerce solution.

In short, small tablets will follow their larger predecessors and again change how people use the internet not only at home but also on the go. With their lower price points and smaller size these devices could become quite ubiquitous, meaning online retailers will need to prepare their strategies sooner rather than later for the new wave of tablet usage. Although nothing will replace the traditional eCommerce experience found on personal computers, the mobility of small tablets combined with the larger screen size (compared to smartphones) could drive a trend of plugged-in consumers shopping online with their small tablet, enjoying a fluid and rich eCommerce experience they are used to experiencing at home.