March 5, 2014, 2:42 PM

Android tablets outsell iPads: So what?

For retailers, news that Android tablets outsold iPads for the first time in 2013 is not very significant. Data provided exclusively to Internet Retailer by eight web merchants show that consumers who use iPads are still browsing and buying in 2014 far more than those using Android devices.

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Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer has dominated the tablet market since it was introduced in 2010. However, new data from technology research firm Gartner Inc. shows that in late 2013, tablets running Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system for the first time outsold iPads. In fact, tallying up worldwide tablet sales for the entirety of last year, Android tablets accounted for 61.9% of tablets sold, iPads 36.0%, Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2.1%, and other mobile operating systems less than 0.1%, Gartner says. By sharp contrast, at the end of 2012, the iPad accounted for 52.8% of worldwide tablet sales, Android 45.8%, Windows 1.0%, and other 0.4%.

So what does this shift in tablet market share mean for retailers and mobile commerce? Not much, retailers and mobile experts say, because consumers who use iPads browse and buy far more than those using other tablets. This follows the exact same pattern that’s developed with smartphones: Android phones have a significant lead in market share, yet Apple iPhone users account for a gigantic majority of browsing and buying.

Today, eight retailers dug into their analytics exclusively for Internet Retailer, providing a 2014 year-to-date look at m-commerce via tablet. Keep in mind, the following tablet shopping figures are for an approximately two-month period following a year in which, according to Gartner, 61.9% of tablets sold were Android devices and 36.0%  iPads:

*   At web-only retailer eBags Inc., No. 163 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, tablets account for 17% of total web traffic. The tablet traffic breakdown is iPad 86%, Android 13% and other 1%, says Peter Cobb, co-founder. The tablet sales breakdown is iPad 88%, Android 11% and other 1%.

*   At graphic wall decorations e-retailer Fathead LLC, No. 320 in the Mobile 500, the tablet traffic breakdown is iPad 78%, Android 21% and other 1%, says Michael Layne, director of Internet marketing. The tablet sales breakdown is iPad 89%, Android 10% and other 1%.

*   At contacts and eyeglasses e-retailer Coastal Contacts Inc., No. 147 in the Mobile 500, traffic from iPads is three times traffic from Android tablets, says Braden Hoeppner, chief marketing officer. The conversion rate on iPads is 10% greater than the rate on Android tablets.

*   At apparel and accessories e-retailer Beyond The Rack, No. 59 in the Mobile 500, iPads generate 15.2% of total web traffic and 17.6% of total web sales while Android tablets generate only 2.8% of traffic and 2.2% of sales, reports Richard Cohene, director of marketing.

*   At home improvement e-retailer CPO Commerce Inc., the tablet traffic breakdown is iPad 80%, Android 19% and other 1%, while the tablet sales breakdown is iPad 85%, Android 14% and other 1%, says Jeff Emmons, vice president of e-commerce.

*   At apparel merchant Dungarees.net, No. 378 in the Mobile 500, 12% of total web traffic and 9% of total web sales stem from tablets, says Darren Baldwin, e-commerce manager. The tablet traffic breakdown is iPad 85.9% and other tablets (mostly Android) 14.1%. The tablet sales breakdown is iPad 90.4% and other tablets (mostly Android) 9.6%. Baldwin also reveals that the conversion rate for iPad shoppers is 5.04%, considerably higher than the 3.45% rate for shoppers on other tablets (mostly Android).

*   At JackThreads.com, No. 88 in the Mobile 500, the tablet traffic breakdown at the merchant, which sells via flash sales and traditional methods, is iPads 82.0%, Android 17.9% and other tablets 0.1%, says Jason Ross, CEO and founder. The tablet transactions breakdown is iPads 87.0% and Android 13.0%.

*   At Nordstrom’s HauteLook, iPad shoppers account for more than 80% of tablet traffic and sales, says Mark Geller, head of mobile.

Further, yesterday Affiliate Window, which operates affiliate networks in the U.S. and the U.K., released data on mobile commerce activity on its networks in February 2014. 75.3% of tablet traffic last month stemmed from iPads while 24.7% came from Android tablets, Affiliate Window reports. More important, 85.2% of sales on tablets occurred on iPads while 14.8% occurred on Android tablets. Shoppers using iPads convert at a much higher rate than shoppers on Android tablets, and spend significantly more, Affiliate Window says. Affiliate Window says last month it averaged about 20,000 orders a day on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets combined), and that 11,000 of those daily orders, 55%, were placed on iPads.

“The State of Mobile Advertising: Q4 2013,” a recent report from the Opera Mediaworks worldwide mobile advertising network, offers another type of comparison between iPad users and Android tablet users. 10.6% of total traffic generated by ads on the mobile network in the final quarter last year occurred on iPads while only 1.9% of traffic came from Android tablets, Opera Mediaworks reports. And 12.7% of revenue generated by mobile ads is attributable to iPad users while only 1.7% is attributable to Android tablet users.

At least part of the explanation for why iPad shoppers are more lucrative is that they have more money. 41.3% of iPad users live in a household making more than $100,000 a year, according to web and mobile measurement firm comScore Inc.’s January 2014 TabLens data. Only 26.7% of Android tablet users live in such a household.

And while tablets running the Android mobile operating system do indeed dominate tablet market share when measured by operating system, the iPad, by far, dominates tablet market share when measured by manufacturer, Gartner says. 36.0% of tablets sold in 2013 were from Apple (the iPad Air, the iPad and the iPad Mini). Apple’s closest competitor, Samsung, racked up 19.1% of sales.

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