December 4, 2013, 4:12 PM

A tale of two mobile devices, via Top500Guide.com

Tablet conversion rates beat smartphone conversion rates by a landslide.

Lead Photo

‘Twas the week before Christmas and a procrastinating son is reaching the final days for guaranteed delivery by Dec. 25 for his beloved mother’s present. There’s a storm brewing outside, so he doesn’t want to venture out and hit the stores, nor leave the comfort of his warm duvet. So, does he reach for his tablet or his smartphone to shop? The answer just might be both. New analysis of mobile commerce data on Top500Guide.com combined with just-released holiday shopping research from IBM Corp. illustrates there’s an important role for both mobile devices in the shopping journey.  

That’s because more consumers visit e-retail sites from smartphones to conduct research, while a higher percentage of tablet shoppers complete a purchase.

For the 30 retailers ranked in the Mobile 500 that supplied details on conversion rates by device, the average conversion rate for tablet shoppers was 2.63%, 160% higher than 1.01% for smartphone shoppers.

This is especially true for the three largest mobile merchants that supplied data. Crate & Barrel, for example, which gets 80% of its mobile sales from tablets, reports a 2.35% conversion rate for tablet shoppers, compared with 0.92% on smartphones. Flash-sale discounter Beyond the Rack, which gets around 57% of its mobile sales from tablets, says 1.92% of its tablet shoppers convert versus 1.04% on smartphones. And luxury accessories brand Tory Burch has a 1.5% tablet conversion rate—three times as high as its 0.5% conversion rate for smartphone shoppers.

Indeed, more sales do occur on tablets, 55% to be exact, compared with 45% occurring on smartphones, according to data from 43 retailers that broke out their mobile sales figures by device for the recently published 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500. These 43 retailers will bring in a projected $991 million in mobile sales in 2013—$544 million from tablets and $447 million from smartphones, Top500Guide.com data show.

However, shoppers, particularly shoppers searching for holiday gifts, are still actively turning to their smartphones to research purchases, find stores, access reviews and more. For example, over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, smartphones accounted for 25% percent of all online traffic to retail sites compared to tablets at 15.2%, finds IBM.  And on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, smartphones accounted for 19.7% of all online traffic compared to tablets at 11.5%.

While many retailers view the tablet and the smartphone both as mobile devices,  consumers clearly use them differently. The good news for retailers is that both devices can often lead to a sale.

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