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Tablets, mainly the iPad, already account for a significant share of e-retail revenue. A recent study of 75 retail sites by web site personalization vendor RichRelevance Inc. in March 2012 found that 4% of revenue came from purchases made on the iPad. The study also found that 68% of mobile shoppers accessing e-commerce sites used iPads, and that the iPad accounted for 90% of all revenue from consumers accessing retail sites from mobile devices.
Many of the early catalog apps are attempting to replicate the visceral experience of thumbing through pages of a print catalog and circling items for later consideration, though they can't yet do it all, says Yory Wurmser, director of marketing and media insights at the Direct Marketing Association, a trade group. "Circling products and bending a corner of a page is much harder to do with an app," Wurmser says.
But in some ways a catalog on an iPad can do more, because it can be connected to content hosted elsewhere on the web. For example, in the iPad app from Restoration Hardware Inc. (No. 105), consumers can click on a product to learn more and bookmark their favorite pages.
It's just a start. But examples like that provide new hope that catalog retailing can remain a vibrant part of e-commerce.