Tablets & Smartphones on the Path to Purchase

by Chuck Martin on June 29, 2013

By Chuck Martin

For mobile commerce, the tablet is getting bigger even as it becomes physically smaller.

The wireless device seems to be edging front and center in the purchase stage of online shopping.

A recent Forester Research study found that almost a third (30%) of U.S. tablet owners used the devices for shopping purposes, noting that a much smaller percentage (13%) of smartphone users have ever bought anything via their device. (Of course, there are many more smartphone than tablet owners, so while the percentage is lower the number is large.)

The mobile impact on sales also continues to increase, with 15% of overall online retail sales this year coming via mobile, heading to 25% by 2017, according to eMarketer.

While more than a third (39%) of smartphone users will buy something via their device this year, a much larger percentage (63%) of tablet users will buy from their device, says eMarketer. In four years, the spread will be even larger, with the tablet share of retail m-commerce sales at 72% for tablets and 27% for smartphones, according to the forecast.

By 2017, more than three quarters (78%) of tablet owners will make at least one online purchase, says eMarketer

So that’s the tablet is getting big part, at least in the actual execution of an online purchase, just as it is and was large on PCs.

But the actual tablet device also is getting smaller.

When iPad ruled the tablet world, the de facto screen size was 9.7 inches. In 2011, about three out of every four (73%) tablet screens were in the 8- to 11-inch range, according to IDC.

This year, the dominant screen size for the majority of tablets (55%) is smaller than 8 inches and in four years, even more tablets will have screens smaller than 8 inches, with only about a third having screens between 8 and 11 inches, says the research firm.

As no surprise, tablets shipments are outpacing those of PCs since the tablet is a logical replacement for many PC activities.

This begs the question of what is the future role of tablets in the mobile shopping cycle. At a larger size,, a tablet is generally a two-handed purchase device, at least while out and about, and not best suited for in-store consumer use, compared to smartphones.

While many with tablets will execute an actual online purchase through their device, a more holistic mobile shopping picture includes smartphone interactions throughout the entire path to purchase, not just at the end.


Chuck Martin is Editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk column. He is the author of “Mobile Influence,” “The Third Screen,” and “The Smartphone Handbook.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute. Chuck Martin is a frequent Mobile Keynote Speaker and Mobile Marketing Speaker around the world.



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