We knew that the iPad’s laid back browsing would replace books and magazines, but we may not have anticipated the impact it would make on catalogs. Tablets breathe life into the catalog, blending the flipping of pages with the ability to instantly tap on an item to purchase. The intimacy of touch-enabled devices offers a personalized quality to luxury and lifestyle brands that customers are already responding to.
Not Quite Desktop, Not Quite Mobile
When luxury online retailer Gilt Groupe launched its iPad app in April it came to comprise 3 percent of the company’s revenue in two days. Gilt Groupe has also managed to maintain its success after the initial fanfare, with over 100,000 users and order values that are 30% higher than their iPhone or website counterparts. Recently one of the most expensive items ever sold on Gilt Groupe, a vintage Rolex watch, was sold for $24,000 to an iPad user.
Gilt Groupe is one among a growing group of retailers exploring T-Commerce, or Tablet Commerce, via apps and web. Although frequently lumped in with mobile, tablets are really their own animal with a different use case and user base. Rather than the watered down, on-the-go style of mobile, a tablet product can take advantage of the extra screen real estate and really let a shopper sit back and explore.
Tablet optimization can be done either through an app or through the mobile web, using HTML 5 to take advantage of the device’s native gestures. Companies including Nike and CNN have created optimized sites that are automatically detected through a tablet browser, then take a user to a website specially designed to utilize the screen space and read the swipe and tap motions iPad users are used to.
Who Does T-Commerce Work Best For
Although T-Commerce is trendy, it’s not for everyone – at least not yet. In June Apple reported more than 25 million iPads have been sold, but that number pales in comparison to 108 million iPhones. Tablets are still a small, but growing, segment of the mobile landscape. In addition, not every type of product sells well via iPad. Thus far there’s been demonstrated success within the luxury vertical, with Gilt Groupe, Google Boutiques and Net a Porter, but the T-Commerce trend isn’t limited to high-end goods.
Studies show tablet users are 11% more likely to purchase clothing and accessories than smartphone users, and are almost twice as likely to purchase gifts and collectibles. Part of what Gilt Groupe attributes its success to is the fact that their app is designed so much like a magazine browsing experience, so perhaps sticking to the print paradigm is one of the keys. A final factor is to also consider the demographic of those who purchase tablets, which typically skews toward wealthier and older.
How to get Tablet Ready
The strongest cue to tell a company it’s time to expand to tablets is when it becomes a large enough portion of your traffic or purchases. It’s easy for a company to mine existing web data to see exactly how many visitors are coming from iPad, but more importantly they should look at the number of purchases being made by iPad users and the types of behavior they are displaying. Several of our clients have shared with us stats showing that while mobile visits always out-number tablet visits, the tablets visitors spend more money. Take note of where and how these users browse to incorporate these elements later into a tablet-specific product.
Even if your retail business isn’t yet prepared to add tablets to the mobile marketing mix, you should at least perform the minimum updates to ensure your desktop site will be operational on tablets. Make sure your website is Flash free and, if possible, upgrade to HTML 5 to ensure there are no glitches. If you are currently sending smartphone users to a clipped down mobile site, you probably don’t want to automatically send tablet users to this destination because they have the advantage of a large screen.
iPad users have been shown to far prefer apps especially designed for their device. If your company has created an iPhone app or is in the process, consider creating a universal app, which runs optimally on both devices and saves you the money of having to develop two different apps. A universal app won’t be completely customized to the iPad platform, but it will appear in the iPad store and have design assets that utilize the screen space.
iPad can seem like just another confusing channel for companies just beginning to wrap their heads around a mobile strategy, but it’s one with high rewards and lower competition. The tablet market is continuing to grow with Android, BlackBerry and Amazon all jumping in on the action, and the untapped nature of the space make it a low-hanging fruit.