The flight from the desktop to mobile devices continues apace -- as it should. Anyone who has spent the last decade and a half shackled to keyboard, monitor and straight-backed chair in order to engage our collective digital addiction knows how desperately many of us wanted ourselves and content finally to be free at last.
Apparently, when the workday draws to a close, shoppers especially move their digital chores to smartphones and then tablets -- in that order. The provider of social media interactions for brands Bazaarvoice issued its third “Conversation Index,” which surveys 11 million pieces of conversations and user-generated content to understand what and how shoppers are engaging brands online. The top-line points for mobile are that after work hours, mobile visits to online shopping sites map one to one to non-mobile visits. In other words, retailers may be just as likely to get their customer on a cell phone browser or app as they will be from the desktop Web site.
But it is the tablet -- notably the iPad -- that is the retailer’s new best friend. According to Bazaarvoice, between midnight and 5 a.m. the iPad actually has the plurality of visits from shoppers. In fact, it far outdistances both iPhone and Android devices as the shopping tool of choice. Optimizing for tablet is no longer a nice-to-have feature. Retailers need to make it easy to browse from both mobile and tablet screens because their customers are not looking for desktop experiences anymore.
And that tablet consumer is worth getting. Beyond the usual affluent demos still associated with tablet audiences, iPad users are spending more time on shopping sites than others. According to Bazaarvoice, iPad browsers are averaging 4 minutes and 50 seconds on a shopping site, which is 3% longer than desktop visitors and 16% longer than people coming from other tablets and smartphones.
Earlier this year a Zmags study found that fewer than a third of retail sites were optimized for tablets. I think that is generous. Even the sites that often think they are tablet-friendly really are not. Slapping a couple of large panels and oversized images on a site doesn't cut it when your finger can’t find the right text links or that mouseover menu becomes unresponsive. For some reason that is beyond me, Amazon seems to think its sites are tablet-friendly, but not so a reasonable person could tell.
If you want a fine examples of trying to do things right on tablets go to Staples.com with your device browser. The interface is all tap and slide. Even the X buttons for closing pop-up windows are oversized. The drop-down menus are large enough to navigate. And in general, they are consistent in the browsing mode. Oops -- but when it is time to add things to a cart and check out, things get dicey. Oh, well -- even the tablet-optimized sites are still not really there yet.