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Consumers Using Tablets Rather Than Phones to Buy

22 May, 2013 By: Doug McPherson

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – About one-third of U.S. tablet owners have bought items on their devices, compared to just 13 percent of mobile phone users – mostly because of tablets’ larger screens, which make them more PC-like and more conducive to online buying, says a Forrester Research report.

But the report adds a prediction that M-commerce – on smartphones only – will more than double from $12 billion this year to $27 billion by 2016 (the report doesn’t yet include tablet-based transactions in its forecast for mobile retail sales). Yet, while growing quickly, mobile retail will remain a small portion of total U.S. E-commerce sales – rising from 5 percent to 8 percent in the next three years.

As for the types of purchases made via mobile, preferences are similar on smartphones and tablets. These include apparel, airline tickets and booking hotel reservations. E-books are the most popular retail category on tablets, with 43 percent of tablet owners buying at least one in the last three months.

Consumers generally opt to shop through retailer’s mobile websites than apps. But when it comes to online-only retailers, apps have the edge, with 36 percent of mobile shoppers using them versus 31 percent who favor their mobile sites.

From a demographic perspective, mobile shoppers (on phones or tablets) skew young, male and affluent. Two out of three have a full-time job, 40 percent earn more than $100,000 per year, and one-third have children under 18 living at home. Their average age is 36.

Forrester notes retailers have been conservative with mobile. Its “State of Retailing Online” report found 18 of 43 retailers surveyed had no full-time staff dedicated to mobile, and half spent less than $100,000 on their annual smartphone investment plan in fiscal year 2011.

What are the reasons retail spending isn’t growing faster on smartphones? Forrester cites non-optimized mobile sites, concerns about mobile payments and, often, network connections. The average conversion rate for mobile sites is 1 percent compared to 2 percent to 3 percent on a PC. For the most part, people are using devices to research purchases, including reading customer product reviews, locating a store or checking store hours

The firm says retailers should help educate consumers about mobile shopping while in physical store locations. Mobile retail operations should also take advantage of mobile-specific features like GPS, accelerometers and near field communication, as well as creating apps that can be used as loyalty cards.

An eMarketer study from last month estimates tablets in 2013 will drive most of U.S. M-commerce sales (excluding travel), with smartphones accounting for 35 percent. By 2017, tablets’ share of M-commerce spending will rise to 71.5 percent, compared to 27 percent on smartphones. Forrester says wider device adoption will play a role in that growth, with the 18 percent of U.S. tablet owners forecast to reach 45 percent by 2016.

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