Deep thoughts…are tablets really mobile devices?
Published April 27, 2012 Share
When it comes to the umbrella term “mobile devices,” tablet computers are certainly a horse of a different color. Tablets aren’t mobile in the way that smartphones are mobile. I mean, technically, a laptop could be considered “mobile” because you can easily move it around, but no one considers a laptop a mobile device, right?
When I think of “mobile,” I think of a device that is always with me, conveniently accessed at any instant. I think of tablets and laptop computers as “transportable.” Yes, they move around, but you don’t really whip them out at any time to use them. They are more of a “sit down and take some time” device, right?
So when we talk about optimizing for mobile, we really should be talking about optimizing for smartphones—and, given that over 46% of US adults now own a smartphone and 41% of smartphone owners have made a purchase from their mobile phone, optimizing for smartphones is critical to sales on- and offline.
According to a study by Local and The eTailing Group, 47% of shoppers use their smartphone to search for information about a local store before visiting and 42% use their smartphone to check inventory first. Shoppers are also using their phones to compare pricing, read reviews and find out more product information. Because of this, a smartphone-optimized site has to provide the information shoppers are looking for both quickly and easily.
But if mobile optimization is critical to capturing (or at least influencing) sales from those that are tooling around town, where do tablets and desktops fit in?
I think of it this way. Smartphones are the flatbed truck of web connectivity—über-useful tools with no frills. Used for specific tasks, then ignored. Laptops are the old standby, the mini van, if you will. Roomier, multipurpose, but still, less than zippy. Not necessarily what you want your friends to see you driving, but safe and reliable. Tablets, however, are a Tesla electric sports car. Convenient and portable like a smartphone but easier to browse the web with, and most often accessed through wifi, giving a speedier experience. They are cool.
But do people really take the Tesla sports car out on the road every day? No, they drive the multipurpose workhorse—the minivan—because it’s more useful and leave the Tesla at home for recreational driving.
Tablets follow a similar model. Tablet usage generally spikes in the early evenings and into the night (during post-work recreation time). According to this April 5 post from Internet Retailer, 5% of retail website traffic at 8 and 11 p.m. came from iPads, twice as much traffic as the noontime hour (2.5%). (Note: although I like my Xoom, iPads are the clear frontrunner in the tablet market. In 2011, 38% of Shopatron’s mobile traffic came from iPads.)
For this reason, tablets may be the dream platform for online retailers. They deliver shoppers that are engaged, relaxed and open to messaging. Tablet users are often on the couch or in bed, watching TV and browsing the web. I would guess that they are even on vacation—I know I take mine on vacation and use it often, although my laptop stays in the bag until work calls. (Sorry boss.)
When tablet users surf, their defenses are low, they are relaxed and they are buying! According to a RichRelevance study, iPads account for 4% of total web revenue.
So what’s the takeaway here?
First, it’s probably time to start talking about tablets and smartphones separately. While tablets are transportable, they are not really devices that are used “on the run.” Are you really going to pull your tablet computer out of your pocket or purse and find a store or scan a QR code? Probably not.
So optimize accordingly. Your regular website accessed from a laptop or PC is still your staple. Don’t neglect it. Your mobile presence has to be shazam fast and have the elegant usability of a well-designed tool. It also has to be full of information, including store locations and local inventory.
But your tablet presence (which is likely similar to your conventional website) should focus on browsing and shopping—rich content, glorious images, informative and beautiful video, swipeable navigation, finger-sized buttons, etc. The tablet shopping experience should be like going to the spa at the Four Seasons. It’s the whole package and pretty darn relaxing.
It sounds like a lot to think about, but, given the trend in “mobile” and tablet usage, it’ll be well worth the effort.
Interested in learning more about mobile? Register for our May 8th webinar, The Present and Future of Mobile.