Mobile is for shopping, tablets are for buying, says ecommerce expert

November 9, 2012
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As the third screen after the PC and the phone, the tablet is quickly gaining ground as a shopping device. But its use is very different from the smartphone.

“Smartphones are used a lot for showrooming, comparing prices, and pre-buying research, but their conversion rates are usually very low”, says François Gaumond. “On the other end, not only is tablet traffic growing fast, but conversion rates are usually higher than on PCs – and much higher than on smartphones.”

For retailers, giving a look at a few key metrics can help us determine how much it’s worth investing in their users’ tablet experience. In addition to the percentage of visits coming from tablets, François Gaumond urges retailers to look at conversion rates from these visits, as well as bounce rates. “A higher bounce rate than the site’s average on PC is a good indication that the tablet experience is poor.”

E-commerce sites have many options, from just adapting their basic site so that it provides a good experience on tablets to developing a native app.

“Developing an app is a costly undertaking, but can be justified in two cases”, says Gaumond. “Either because the emotional and engagement value is very high, and the retailer can make a compelling use of rich features which can only be included in an app.

“This could be the case for a high-end fashion retailer, who would like to allow users to send pictures of themselves and show them how they would look with such and such garment. Or because frequent usage can be sustained by app notifications. Private-sales specialists, like RueLaLa and Gilt, take advantage of this feature.”

The importance of responsive design

Gaumond notes that on the web, t-commerce performance can be improved by responsive design – with a site’s layout automatically adapting to the size of the screen, and sometimes to the kind of device used.

“Such adaptation typically results in items being moved on the page and images resizing when the width is narrower than the typical 1024 pixel used as a standard width by most web sites. “It can also result in some button being enlarged and content items, most importantly links, having more space around them, because fingers are less accurate than a mouse cursor.”

But Gaumond thinks tablet usage will grow enough for many retailers to consider a dedicated tablet site. “Staples has done just that and their tablet site really provides a different and pleasant experience on a tablet” he says. “From the home page, users can swipe – rather than scroll – featured products. And on internal pages, several functions are directly accessible for the thumb, on the side of the screen.”

Francois Gaumond will give a presentation on the tablet user experience in e-commerce at Montreal Digital Festival on Monday. TabTimes is a media partner of Mobiz, the mobile industry component of the festival, to be held on Nov. 15.



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