January 19, 2012, 2:10 PM

Shoppers convert as often on tablets as on PCs

And consumers spend more using a tablet, Adobe finds.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Consumers are just as likely to buy using a tablet as they do when using a PC, the survey found.

There is some heartening news for retailers weighing tablets like the iPad as a viable sales channel. Research from 16.2 billion visits to 150 e-retailer sites shows that the average conversion rate was 2.3% on tablets compared with 2.5% on laptop and desktop computers, says Adobe Digital Marketing Insights, the research arm of Adobe Inc.

However, consumers spent on average $123 per order when shopping with a tablet compared with $102 for those using laptop and desktop computers.

And tablets bested the average conversion rate and average order value on smartphones of 0.8% and $80, respectively.

While smartphones and tablets made up small percentages of overall visits to e-commerce sites, those percentages increased as 2011 progressed. In January 2011, consumers used computers for 96% of their site visits, but that decreased to 90% by December. Smartphone visits increased from 3% to 6% and visits made with tablets increased from 1% to 4%.

While the devices are often lumped together, retailers should develop distinct strategies for smartphones and tablets, says Austin Bankhead, Adobe Digital Marketing Insights director. Tablets, in particular, stand out as demanding retailer attention, Bankhead says.

One reason is the demographics of tablet owners, he says. They have an average household annual income of $63,000 and intend to spend more using their tablets in 2012, according to a recent survey from Zmags, a company whose technology enables retailers to sell through digital catalogs. Another reason, Bankhead says, it that the tablet form factor makes shopping easier and more enjoyable than on the smaller smartphone. And consumers use tablets more on the weekends to visit e-commerce sites than during the week, he adds.

In addition, the latest forecast on tablet sales predicts many more consumers will be using tablets, a device that only emerged in January 2010 with the introduction of Apple Inc.’s iPad and the subsequent release of scores of tablets using Android software. U.S. consumers bought an estimated 26.6 million tablets in 2011, according to Forrester Research Inc.’s “Consumer and PC Tablet Forecast, 2011 to 2016” report. By 2016 Forrester predicts tablet sales will increase to 60.3 million.

“Retailers spend millions trying to get extra sales,” Bankhead says. They want to know when and how to focus their resources. “Here’s a segment that’s worth prioritizing,” he says. No other sales channel has emerged as quickly and powerfully as tablets, he adds.

In addition to treating smartphone and tablet visitors as distinct consumer segments, retailers also need to ensure their web sites and apps are optimized for tablets, Bankhead says. An optimized site might entice consumers to linger and potentially make a purchase, he says. And given tablet owners’ relative affluence and their purchasing behavior, retailers could design promotions to entice more purchases, Bankhead says.

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