This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
The rapid adoption of the smartphone from 2007 onward has caused a new set of challenges to retailers, which as a result had to optimize their websites for the exponentially growing number of people trying to access their sites from devices with much smaller screen sizes.
Just as they got to grips with the trial and error of how to create a mobile website their customers actually found easy to use and can potentially purchase from, Steve Jobs (News - Alert) launched the iPad, which instantly captured the hearts and minds of the public and caused a new challenge for online retailers.
Apple (News - Alert) wasn’t the first to bring a tablet to the market, but with a combination of an easy-to-use interface coupled with the power of the Apple brand, this product quickly dominated the market.
Despite other manufacturers’ attempts to try and gain market share, today the iPad accounts for more than 90 percent of all tablet online traffic.
The tablet actually achieved a faster market penetration rate than the smartphone. In the two short years since it launched, 18 percent of Americans bought a tablet. And Forrester (News - Alert) projects that by 2016, one in three Americans will own a tablet.
Retailers have seen tablet traffic beginning to outpace smartphone traffic.
At first, most retailers didn’t really know how to respond to this new market segment of tablet visitors. As it has a much bigger screen size compared to smartphones, most retailers’ websites felt their sites worked adequately, so took a wait-and-see approach. But as more data on tablet usage and their owners came to light, it became apparent that tablet usage had its own unique set of behaviors and characteristics that were enough for retailers to take notice.
Firstly, while the conversion rate was slightly less of that of the desktop, the average order value was significantly higher at $123 against desktop ($102) or smartphone ($80) – indicating that the tablet shopper was a more affluent customer and a bigger online shopper.
Furthermore, when and where people actually use their tablets has become very significant. It is more than likely that a tablet owner will be a multi-device owner – with a desktop and a smartphone – and have developed a different relationship with each device. Tablet usage is highest in the evening and weekends, indicating that tablet owners are far more likely to use their tablets at home when they are in a relaxed setting, where they are primed to leisurely browse and buy.
As the tablet is a touchscreen device, with which people use their fingers instead of a mouse, they have different expectations of how the website should function. The tablet user requires bigger buttons, pinch-to-zoom images, and prefers pages and images s/he can easily swipe with their fingers.
But tablet users quickly discovered that some features on many retailers’ websites simply don’t work. Anything built in Flash leaves the user with an error message. Drop-down menus can be faulty, and clickable text and checkboxes that are too small for people’s fingers become a frustrating experience for visitors, leading a higher percentage to drop off. Much like the smartphone, filling out credit card and billing details on a tablet just isn’t as easy as doing so on the desktop – unless there’s an easy payment system like PayPal or Google (News - Alert) Wallet available at checkout, which increases mobile conversion by up to 30 percent.
While nearly all of the Top 100 Internet Retailers have smartphone-optimized sites, only a fraction have optimized their tablet sites – just 7 percent prior to Thanksgiving 2012. But now that industry trends are pointing to the fact that the tablet shopper is much more lucrative than the smartphone shopper, retailers are beginning to take action.
In early 2012, Skava worked with Staples (News - Alert), the second-largest online retailer to launch the first fully optimized retail tablet website. Compared to the firm’s desktop or smartphone efforts, it creates a very different, much more engaging experience. It received a huge amount of industry attention, and has since seen a huge number of inquiries from major retailers looking for tablet-optimized sites.
Since then, they’ve worked with other retailers, such as Harry and David and Toys R Us, to create unique tablet-optimized experiences. The company anticipates that 2013 will be the year of the tablet and many more retailers will follow this trend.
In the highly competitive world of retail, in which customer loyalty can shift quickly and every day there’s more competition from other retailers offering more innovative goods, the tablet provides a new channel with which retailers can begin to dominate a new and rapidly growing market segment. Those who create an easy-to-use, engaging experience have the opportunity to acquire a new customer base – but those who fail to respond could potentially lose ground to customers who find an easier-to-use experience elsewhere.
Adequate will no longer suffice for online shoppers. They expect a seamless, engaging experience, and the retailers that meet their needs will win reap the benefits.
Edited by Braden Becker