April 4, 2011, 5:47 PM

When creating a tablet strategy, don’t forget the browser

Forrester Research finds that tablet owners use sites more than apps.

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When retailer m-commerce executives think of the iPad and other tablets, the first thing that probably comes to mind is apps. Tablets and apps go hand in hand. But a sound tablet strategy does not overlook consumers using the Internet on a tablet’s web browser, and e-commerce sites should offer some features geared to those shoppers, writes Sarah Rotman Epps, analyst, media services, at Forrester Research Inc., in a new report entitled “Apps and Browsers will Coexist on Tablets.”

In fact, 39% of 210 U.S. tablet users report they spend more time using a tablet’s browser than using apps while only 16% say they spend more time using apps, according to a Forrester Research Q1 2011 survey. 45% spend about the same time using the browser and apps.

“Many clients we speak with who have iPad apps report seeing more iPad traffic come to their web site through the Safari browser than through their app,” Rotman Epps writes. “And yet, even web sites that are supposedly ‘iPad-ready’ are not truly touch-optimized. For example, InStyle.com accessed on the iPad’s Safari browser looks good on the home page, with large targets and a context-sensitive advertisement. But one page deeper, the user hits a slideshow that requires tapping on a ‘next’ button rather than swiping from photo to photo.”

A typical target would include a headline or image. The “context-sensitive” ad on InStyle.com is for a related publication’s iPad app. And swiping from photo to photo as opposed to touching a Next button has become the more natural way tablet users touch their screens when moving from one object to another.

The Forrester Research report emphasizes that businesses such as e-retailers should not get too caught up in the frenzy surrounding apps and understand that both apps and optimized sites have a role to play on tablets. And the role web browsers play may gain importance as innovation continues in the mobile realm.

“The new tablets coming on the Android Honeycomb platform, the BlackBerry PlayBook and the HP TouchPad all have improved browsers with Flash support. Honeycomb tablets have tabbed browsing similar to that of the Google Chrome browser on a PC,” Rotman Epps writes. “With these improved tablet browsers, we expect browser usage to only increase, but apps will still be important for delivering device-optimized experiences and offline content.”

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