Forrester: Tablets a Bigger Opportunity Than Smartphones

Discussion
Jul 26, 2011
George Anderson

It’s not surprising that so many retailers have been plowing dollars into developing ways to connect with consumers on their smartphones. After all, more and more people are walking around today doing all sorts of activities — including shopping.

A new study by Forrester Research, however, suggests that while smartphones (and social media) are current beeping bright on retailers’ radar screens, tablet devices may ultimately offer a bigger opportunity for driving business.

Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester, writes on a company blog: "Only nine percent of web shoppers now have tablet devices, but here’s the big deal — most of those people already own smartphones (as well as PCs, of course), and they are saying that they actually prefer to use their tablets for shopping. Not only that, but the ownership of the tablet device itself actually increases the amount of time that people spend online."

Tablets, according to Forrester, generate 21 percent of mobile traffic to retailer websites. Three aspects of the devices make them more attractive as a shopping device than smartphones from a consumer perspective: larger screens, portability and richer content.

Consumers do have some frustrations with the tablet shopping experience. Forrester found that of the 47 percent of tablet users who have made an online purchase with a device, 44 percent found them to be less shopping friendly than personal computers.

Retailers with tight budgets, according to Ms. Mulpurum, probably don’t need to develop content specifically for tablets. On the other hand, those with the means should see tablets as an "opportunity for deeper customer engagement that can make the Internet shopping experience much better for discovery, inspiration, and interactivity. And much better than social networks and smartphones ever could."

Discussion Questions: Do you see a bigger e-commerce potential for tablet devices than smartphones? Should retailers be developing content with the goal of improving the tablet shopping experience?

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13 Comments on "Forrester: Tablets a Bigger Opportunity Than Smartphones"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Most content on retail websites can be easily optimized for tablets. Retailers should focus on smart phones. Smart phones are more ubiquitous than tablets will ever be and are always with consumers.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Well, the answer is obvious but the article misses the point, I think.

I don’t know anyone who believes the small footprint of the smartphone will be the most desirable shopping experience … but without a shift, the smartphone is the retail STORE killer. The smartphone will be a necessary tool to keep customers engaged while they are in the store, or it will be the tool that turns stores into showrooms.

The tablet’s larger footprint makes it a convenient tool for retail employees, and it’s a great tool for consumers at home. But the critical questions remain: “What about the store? How can we make it relevant in the 21st century?”

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I believe tablets will continue to be developed as a niche between smartphones and PCs. Tablets provide a larger (and easier to manipulate) screen than smartphones to watch videos, check email, surf the web and, yes, shop. PCs will continue their function for work tasks like spreadsheets, presentations, etc. but lack the portability advantages of both smartphones and tablets.

If this niche continues to grow, aided by its noted advantages and lower cost of entry, then retailers will be forced to develop the appropriate content. Why wait until the wave crashes onto the beach? Let’s pick out this new best wave now and surf it the entire way.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

As both Max and Paula have pointed out, the advantage of the smartphone over the tablet is its portability. I don’t foresee a time when customers are going to be walking around stores with their tablets. That, and its multi-functionality, mean it should remain the focus of retailers for their out-of-home interaction with customers.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

It boils down to what measure you use. On a transaction measure, smartphones should win. There are more of them and more opportunities to use them throughout the day. The question is, how much credit/debit sales will move to smartphones? On a dollar measure, the pad should win. The reason being pad/website sales are larger dollar transactions. Over time, I am expecting people who don’t have computers to get pads. Further, many seniors may migrate from computers to pads.

Liz Crawford
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Tablets seem to be geared for delivering quality mobile media experiences (vs. say, communication or productivity, etc). I don’t believe that tablets will catch fire in the fast moving goods sector like grocery or HBA, whereas mobile phones, which are a person’s constant companion, will.

Instead, tablets may catch on for apparel shopping and perhaps booking travel. Here’s why; as more entertainment shows become interactive and “shoppable” (buy Marg Helgenberger’s sweater!), we’ll see more seamless interactivity with shopping as a result.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
9 years 9 months ago

It’s not really even fair to compare the mobile device to the tablet, in my opinion. The appeal of the mobile device is that it can be easily used while on the go and in-store. An iPhone, for example, is a great tool to use while shopping to scan products to compare prices or read reviews. It’s great for quick hits of information that can inform an in-store purchase. The tablet, on the other hand, is more suited to internet browsing and making the purchase completely online. A straighter comparison might be between PCs and tablets, but I think mobile serves a broader purpose than simply e-commerce purchases.

Tim Smith
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Smartphones are convenient when you already know exactly what you are going to buy; size, qty, etc. They are also useful for checking availability and price. But, IMO, when researching or shopping for color and textures, the small screen is not optimal. Tablets and PCs will continue to drive growth for research and shopping online.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 9 months ago

With a larger screen offering more presentation options, along with expanded functionality and utility, it seems highly likely that the tablets will surpass the smartphone as the e-commerce device of choice. Anecdotally, I have yet to meet anyone who does not love their tablet nor have I met anyone who does not take it everywhere, usually in lieu of their laptop (the original e-commerce device). In my view, retailers would definitely be smart to develop tablet-specific portals.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
9 years 9 months ago
The fact is, we are headed to the day when we will use one screen. We will not have desktops, laptops and tablets. We will have one unit, and most likely it will be a form of a tablet computer. Smartphones will still exist, but the average consumer that ultimately will have both tablets and smartphones will gravitate to the tablet due to the larger screen. From an e-commerce standpoint, the tablet allows consumers to have a full catalog of products — from every retailer in the world — with them at all times. When the consumer walks into a retailer and sees a product that they like on a screen that allows them to pinch, zoom, and rotate, they will be able to order the products from any online retailers of their choice, sometimes getting free shipping, and have the product at the best price, with the best selection, at their door in 2 days. Should retailers be worried? Yes. Should retailers be developing a tablet solution to their business? Yes, before they do… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Tablets have been around for years. Apple, of course, had to light the market on fire, and now everyone “needs” a tablet. Just like every other consumer technology, there will be cycles of device formats and configurations into the foreseeable future. Retailers and CPGers need to be nimble enough to flex their strategy execution to ride whatever wave is rushing through the marketplace. Better yet, they should take advantage of the technologies that are currently available to help create predictive modeling around anticipated trends.

Tablets are hot now, however, the bigger prize is waiting for the retailer with the compelling content, rather than the device compatibility.

Stan Barrett
Guest
Stan Barrett
9 years 9 months ago

What about the retailer that has the tablet in the hands of the salesperson? Order out of stocks; upsell to an item you might not have in store — but you know the customer “needs” to maximize the experience. I am thinking mainly for shoes, clothing, etc, but this could easily be focused on electronics, as well. Free up your cashiers to actually “sell” by wandering the aisles.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

It’s a matter of convenience versus a visual shopping experience. The larger tablet screen provides a much richer shopping experience when compared to the tiny smartphone screen. From my own experience, when “browsing” an online retailer I always use my tablet or PC. When out and about I’ll use my smartphone to check prices, locate stores, etc. What will be interesting is to see how retailers leverage the customer-owned technologies (smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.) to provide richer shopping experiences. Many retailers are already on their way with a variety of mobile initiatives that bring together the power of digital signage, smartphones, and customer-focused software applications.

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