Without going into a deep dive on the technical comparisons of various mobile devices, we can make a few basic observations that should help you further understand the devices that consumers use and how you can reach them through the most popular mediums.
Of course, we suggest you extend your mobile website or app presence to cover multiple mobile devices (and platforms) at once (more on this in Chapter 6, “Finalizing Your Mobile Launch”), but some devices clearly offer better reach and potentially broader access to your customers.
Tablets Attract Customers
More and more, tablets are becoming the digital space where mobile merchants find their customers. Optimizing your mobile website or app design and functionality to suit tablet usage makes sense when you realize that, according to a recent Apple report, the company’s iPad now outships the iPhone nearly 5 to 1 (due in large part to large shipments of the new iPad 2) and the iPod greater than 10 to 1 in global markets.
A Morgan Stanley survey also drove home the point that whether you share your mobile business via a smartphone or a tablet, the pair of mobile devices combined is projected to outship desktop and notebook PCs by nearly a billion units globally in 2011.
A recent e-tailing group survey showed that 68 percent of tablet owners say they used their devices to make a purchase compared with 48 percent of smartphone owners. This makes the point that even though consumers may access the Web via tablets less frequently than they do via smartphones, they’re buying on tablets more regularly.
The same e-tailing group survey noted that 88 percent of respondents rated their tablet shopping experience as somewhat to very satisfactory, compared with 73 percent of those using smartphones. Both numbers are encouraging for mobile business, and, apparently, the mobile device gaining the most customer attention is the tablet.
Tablets May Overtake Smartphones
Tablets may soon become consumers’ preferred mobile device over smartphones (outside of making calls, of course)—and a better mobile outlet for product and service displays—for several key reasons. Tablets have the obvious creature-comfort advantage over smartphones (not to mention laptops) when chosen for extended reading or viewing time in an easy chair. Tablets also offer increasingly higher-resolution displays or more engaging visuals; more rich content for mobile web browsing, videos, and e-publications; longer battery life (thanks to better processors); and more app marketplaces offering a wider array of options.
Tablets can be a boost to merchants who need to clearly display products in a highly visual way on their website or mobile app. For example, if you want to sell the fine details in, say, the high relief of collectible coins, tapping and zooming the image on a tablet can render more accurate detail. The same image enlarged on a smaller smartphone screen may actually further blur the specifics.
And as more merchants and developers create apps exclusively for tablets, specialty content will be in higher demand. Some have already made tablet apps showing classic print magazine ads with large, splashy photo spreads to “flip” through or catalogs with rows of product images for “window-shopping.” Such features may make the case for greater mobile sales through tablets.
This is not to say that tablets will entirely replace other mobile devices. Many consumers view tablets as an accessory mobile device. According to a Morgan Stanley report, 55 percent of potential tablet users do not expect their tablet to replace the purchase of other mobile technology platforms, such as a smartphone.
From your mobile merchant perspective, then, suffice it to say that optimizing your mobile business for today’s fast-proliferating tablets is the broad-minded and forward-thinking path to pursue.