There are a lot of reasons why consumers are increasingly reaching for their tablets (iPads mainly) instead of their laptops or desktops to browse and buy. The swipe and tap motions are simpler, less cumbersome, and they empower users to manipulate the displayed product(s) directly–literally, with the touch of a finger. Bypassing scroll bars and not having to tick boxes, use the shift button or deal with distracting Flash elements all contribute to the tablet’s attractiveness. Further boosting tablets’ popularity is the seamlessness with the smartphone experience. The more we swipe and tap during the day, all day, on our phones, the more natural it is to use a tablet at night (the vast majority of users’ two-hours-per-day average tablet usage is between 5 and 11pm), whether we’re working, playing, buying or most likely, a combination of all three.
In our new Tablets study, “The New Purchase Path: Swipe, Tap, Own,” we found that despite rapid and deep tablet adoption, retailers haven’t kept up, particularly in terms of site. In fact, less than 10 percent of the 60 retail brands we assessed in the report currently maintain a site optimized for tablets. By “optimized” we mean: all images, videos and additional visual features are able to render and load; text is not just legible but proportionate to the design; buttons and menus are easily touch-manipulative. As we all know from frustrating personal experience, retailers overwhelmingly and unsuccessfully rely on desktop site architecture for the tablet experience. Only 7 percent of the brands load a Java-based web app like IBM WebSphere Commerce, a configuration that lends itself to serving different content on different screen types. Six percent of brands are too focused on smartphones, pushing visitors to either the App Store or to a site specifically optimized for smartphones. Only two brands in the entire study, H&M and White House | Black Market, have native tablet sites.
Just over one-third of retailers support a “view all items” option in gallery mode—a feature that on a desktop causes scroll fatigue and delays load time but works well for a tablet, where users are accustomed to looking at hundreds of items with a few swipes. And speaking of swipes, only 13 percent of retailers provide any tap-swipe functionality for individual page elements. Finally, nearly one in five retailers’ desktop-to-tablet site incompatibility wastes valuable real estate, depending on a device’s orientation (i.e., more pronounces when in landscape vs. portrait mode).
In 2012, Cyber Monday generated $2 billion in sales, 20 percent of which came from mobile devices—and more than two-thirds of that from tablets. Tablet visitors to retail sites are three times more likely to purchase than smartphone visitors and spend 50 percent more per purchase. By not accommodating these high-end buyers, by not going where they are and giving them the kind of experience that will motivate them to buy, retailers are losing out on significant revenue.
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