February 29, 2012, 1:16 PM

Watch out: Here comes the iPad 3

And with it comes good news for e-retailers that are prepared.

Lead Photo

Next week, on March 7, Apple Inc. plans an announcement, the content of which it is keeping secret. But it’s the worst-kept secret in the technology world: Apple will unveil the iPad 3.

Rumors and leaks abound. Here is what is expected on the new iPad: a higher resolution screen, a much faster processor, Siri speech recognition software that today is featured on the iPhone 4S, even greater battery life, and high-speed 4G wireless connectivity, which would make the iPad 3 Apple’s first 4G device. This means iPad 3 owners likely will expect even crisper imagery and video, and sites and apps that load and function very quickly. It also means more iPads in more consumers’ hands—all the more reason to ensure sites are optimized for viewing on an iPad, and cause to consider investing in an iPad app, mobile commerce experts say.

19% of U.S. adults own a tablet computer, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project finds. And various studies say between 65-75% of those tablets are iPads. The iPad 3 could bump that percentage higher: Investment firm Stern Agee says Apple will sell 55 million iPads—iPad 2 and iPad 3 combined—in 2012.

So why is a new tablet computer important to e-retailers? Because iPad owners are retail carnivores. 92% of non-desktop online sales originated from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch in December 2011, up from 88% in April 2011, says personalization vendor RichRelevance Inc. It studied 3.4 billion shopping sessions on its retailer clients’ sites between April and December 2011. What’s more, shoppers using Apple mobile devices have a larger average order value compared with other mobile platforms—$123 for Apple versus $101 for Android in December 2011. And that far outstrips the desktop average order value of $87.

And the tablet and smartphone shoppers just keep on coming. The share of U.S. online retail dollars attributable to mobile devices has doubled from 1.87% in April 2011 to 3.74% in December 2011, RichRelevance finds. Further, in April 2011 just under 9% of all shoppers were browsing retail sites on a mobile device. By December 2011, that share more than doubled, reaching 18 percent of all consumers.

This is all good news for e-retailers, but especially for those that are prepared for iPad owners. And many retailers are on the right track with mobile commerce.

63.3% of merchants surveyed last month by Internet Retailer are considering redesigning their web sites so they render better on the iPad and other tablets.

“It’s the advent of mobile and the tablet,” says Nate Ende, vice president of e-commerce at Trinity Insight LLC, an e-commerce consulting firm. As more e-retail executives visit their own e-commerce sites on tablet devices, many are realizing their sites are not overly appealing to shoppers using devices like the iPad, and this is spurring some merchants to redesign their sites this year, Ende says.

If the history of mobile technology since the dawn of the smartphone teaches anything, it’s that the debut of a new mobile device from Apple will be a smash. Retailers should pay heed to the new iPad, for tablet shopping is on the rise and retailers prepared to meet these hungry shoppers’ needs stand to benefit.

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