September 1, 2011, 2:41 PM

Consumers shop on smartphones, but buy via tablets

A study shows tablets overwhelm smartphones in terms of conversion.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Consumers may browse on their smartphones, but they buy using tablets.

Insight from three e-retailers shows what some have suspected: Consumers may shop with their smartphones, but more of them make a purchase using tablets, according to data released by Ability Commerce, an e-commerce software provider.

The data, from three larger e-retailer clients of Ability, shows that visits to the retailers’ sites overwhelmingly came from smartphones versus tablets, namely the iPad. Ability uses Google Analytics to track visits to client sites; Google recently altered its analytics to show visits made via tablets.

However, traffic and sales tell two different stories.

In one instance, consumers using iPads accounted for 55.6% of a retailer’s mobile commerce revenue over a 30-day period, but iPad users generated only 13% of mobile visits. With another retailer, iPad traffic comprised 21% of mobile visits but 51% of its m-commerce revenue. The most dramatic example is the third retailer, with 50% of mobile traffic and 97% of mobile revenue stemming from iPads. Ability did not identify the retailers.

The lesson for retailers is that consumers use tablets to make purchases as they do with laptops and desktop computers, says Jennifer Tonisson, Ability Commerce marketing and training manager. “There’s a large screen and a lot of information is displayed,” Tonisson says. “The tablet market is where more conversions happen.”

Retailers need to pay better attention to how consumers use tablets, she adds. “What retailers should do is see what devices consumers are using to shop on their sites and see what their sites look like on those devices,” Tonisson says. “It’s important to bring in the traffic, but it’s more important to convert the traffic into sales.”

Comments | 1 Response

  • Inferring broad conclusions from such a small sample size is dangerous, especially as Ability Commerce is not naming names. But if tablets' dominance of actual purchases is widespread then the fact (according to a Nielsen report) that most tablet usage is at home at least raises the question of "how much of mobile shopping really is mobile?" More generally, it looks like - as I would expect from my own tablet usage - that tablets and smartphones play distinctly different strategic roles. In an interesting post today, GetElastic shows examples of how to leverage the unique properties of mobile phones.

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