The Tablet vs. Smartphone Shopping Revolution

Shopping-cart-AARetailers may want to be a bit careful about how to deal with the alleged tablet commerce revolution.

Two new studies point to the rise of tablet commerce, with smartphone shopping seemingly fading into the shadows.

Some mobile shopping findings in the State of Mobile Benchmark Study by Adobe, based on mobile shopping statistics culled from more than 500 retailers’ websites, indicate that the tablet is the mobile purchase device of choice.

The study found that online shoppers are three times more likely to make a purchase when shopping with a tablet rather than with a smartphone.

A separate study by eMarketer found that mobile commerce is actually increasing the size of the online purchasing market, with 15% of online sales this year coming from mobile devices.

Tablets rule in that study as well, with 63% of tablet owners making at least one purchase from that device, compared to 39% of smartphone users.

Both these finding echo other recent research leading to the obvious conclusion that the tablet is becoming the primary mobile commerce device.

This brings to mind the age-old tale of the group of blind men who touch an elephant to determine what it’s like. After they each touch a different part, they have a wild disagreement about what the elephant looks like. Tablet commerce is but one piece of the elephant.

There’s little doubt that many people will make purchases from their tablets. But making an online purchase from a tablet is yet one component of mobile shopping, just as mobile payment is a component.

The reality is that mobile transforms shopping from an event to a process; people no longer go shopping, they are shopping.

For shopping, consumers use smartphones at home, in the research phase, in transit, on location, in stores, in the close proximity of products, during paying and in sharing information with friends after a purchase.

Smart marketers and mobile innovators are well into developing and deploying methods to engage consumers at various stages of that shopping process.

Mobile commerce is more than one event during the purchase process, even if that one event is done using a tablet. 


mCommerce Summit Update: New to the agenda:  Bank of America.  June 16-19, in Kohler, WI. Check it out here: The agenda.

6 comments about "The Tablet vs. Smartphone Shopping Revolution".
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  1. mike boland from BIA/Kelsey, April 25, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.

    The two studies you cite are measuring only ecommerce and mcommerce (online conversion). But the broader discussion that brings in OFFLINE shopping I agree is the real opportunity (93% of U.S. retail is offline) And that's where smartphones -- due to portability and other factors -- will outshine tablets as you suggest.

    In the meantime, those two studies weren't "counting" offline shopping in their methodology, hence the tablet-weighted results. Too often, mcommerce and mobile-assisted offline shopping are lumped under the rubric of "mobile shopping". They are two totally separate areas of opportunity and product strategy, so should be separated in discussions like this.

  2. Tom Francoeur from Communispace, April 25, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

    Good points made in the article and Mike's comments. People are using different devices at different times of the day - and then a purchase is finally made. And as Mike points out, 93% of US retail is offline. So marketers need to have a multi-channel mobile strategy - running only for tablets will mean missed opportunities.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 25, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

    Yes, Mike, am very aware and totally agree with your observations about online vs. offline and good point about noting that, as both linked stories covering those studies in detail did.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 25, 2013 at 2:56 p.m.

    Thanks, Tom, and to your point and Mike's about offline or physical retail, some research was out last week about women shoppers preferring to visit physical stores to shop. Her's a link, in case you missed it.

  5. Todd Sherman from Point Inside, April 25, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.

    This study brings up two misleading presentations that do not help readers. The first one is covered above by Mike.

    The second is that tablets are basically PC/laptop replacements. They are easy to transport (because of size and weight) but they are not really the mobile device that smartphones are (9 out of 10 tablets are WiFi only). When we look at how/when they are used, they exist in completely different ecosystems.

    (I'm still looking for the jogger who runs with a tablet, or a shopper who pulls it out in the store.)

    We should stop comparing tablets and smartphones because they use a similar OS, use apps, share chargers, etc.

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 25, 2013 at 3:29 p.m.

    That was the point we were trying to make, Todd, that tablet buying behavior (the studies referred to online shopping) is quite different from the extent of smartphone activity throughout what, in my latest book, I refer to as, the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle.

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