By Gary Kim published February 21, 2012

Retailers Not Catering to Tablet-Wielding Shoppers

tablet surveySo far retailers are not taking full advantage of the opportunity to extend their content efforts to tablets, a survey of 100 major retailers sponsored by Zmags has found.

The study reports:

  • More than two-thirds of retailers have not optimized their sites for tablet commerce. Instead, they are hoping their traditional websites are “adequate enough” for tablet shoppers.
  • While some retailers have developed iPad apps, 25 percent of those don’t allow consumers to make purchases directly through the app.

The push to develop mobile shopping platforms (i.e. smartphones) in retail has been in high gear over the last twelve months, but the Zmags survey suggests too little attention has been paid to the surge in tablet adoption. This is notable because in October 2011 comScore reported:

  • “Tablet owners exhibited significant use of their devices throughout the entire online shopping process – from doing the initial planning, conducting product and store research, making price comparisons, to finally transacting.”
  • Almost 50 percent of tablet owners had completed a purchase on their tablet.
  • More than half of tablet owners (usually iPads) “looked up product or price information for a specific store (56 percent) and read customer ratings and reviews while on a tablet (54 percent).”

Gilt Groupe, Disney, Urban Outfitters lead

While optimization for tablets among retailers is still fairly low, some are jumping on the opportunity to provide differentiated shopping experiences. Gilt Groupe, Disney, and Urban Outfitters are ahead of the pack in supporting commerce and marketing apps on most or all mobile devices, including iPads. In addition to providing a rich shopping experience with more touch-screen capabilities, these retailers also use their mobile platforms to promote events and distribute free music.

For Gilt Groupe, the return on investment is relatively easy to understand. When the luxury online retailer launched its iPad app in April 2011, it quickly found—within two working days, in fact—that the tablet app was generating three percent of the company’s revenue.

Since then, Gilt Groupe has found that tablet order values are 30 percent higher than the company’s iPhone or standard website counterparts.

Nike also way ahead

Only one top-100 Internet retailer, Nike, is fully taking advantage of the tablet’s unique interface capabilities, study authors said. Nike’s native iPad app offers a rich interface to browse shoes and engage Nike’s rich media library.

More than half of the surveyed retailers have created simplified mobile sites for smart phone users, but few are developing native iPad apps like Nike’s. The findings should not be surprising, given the newness of the tablet phenomenon, and the uncertainty about which devices are “must-support” channels.

Most retailers are using their existing websites to display tablet content, which translates into a clunky and often frustrating shopping experience for consumers, the study suggests. Among the issues: slow loading times, unavailable content and Flash-related issues.

Opportunities for Marketers

Considering the adoption rates for tablet users, as well as the fundamentally different navigation experience of the tablet versus the laptop or PC, marketers must decide whether tablet optimization makes sense and what types of content make the most sense to distribute through tablet-ready sites.

What’s more, marketers must develop a better understanding of tablet shoppers. ComScore reports that in the U.S., tablet users “display the characteristics of early technology adopters.” That is, young high-income males. That said, it’s not clear how quickly these demographics are changing, nor whether tablet shoppers differ from the universe of tablet users.

Tablet image via Shutterstock.

Author: Gary Kim

Gary Kim has been a communications industry analyst and journalist for more than 25 years, and currently writes mostly about end user behavior, mobile applications, mobile payments, mobile banking and business models in the broadband ecosystem. He recently was cited as a global "Power Mobile Influencer" by Forbes; ranked second in the world for strategic coverage of the mobile business. He writes for several online content sites, including Carrier Evolution, IP Carrier, Mobile Marketing & Technology, Content Marketing Institute and TMCnet. He also contributes to Razorsight and Accedian blogs. Follow him on Twitter@garykim.

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