A very mobile Christmas

Christmas stockings will be overflowing with tablets next month, which should thrill retailers because new data suggests tablet shoppers spend more. First shop owners need to understand them better.

I know it’s hardly Charles Dickens, but in a sign of the times, Christmas this year will be decidedly mobile and decidedly in the form of a tablet. While Australian electronics retailers may be rubbing their hands together in glee as a rash of new tablets hits their stores just in time for Christmas, Santa is going to have a tough job on his hands as he deliberates on the finer benefits of one tablet over another.

This is a market that not too long ago was simply defined by the Apple iPad. Yet this year the slew of devices, including new Apple iPad Minis, Microsoft Surface tablets, Google Nexus 10 tablets and a fourth-generation version of the full-sized iPad in addition to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle Fire means that the decision isn’t quite so straightforward.

Whatever flavour of tablet you end up unwrapping on Christmas morning and whether or not Ebenezer Scrooge has had any hand in it, one can be assured that Australian households will be further saturated with mobile devices with more members of the household using the device simultaneously while they consume other media. Whoever wins the tablet war, it’s going to be a good Christmas for retailers of electronics.

Indispensable shopping companions

But what interests me more is how tablets and mobile devices of all shapes and sizes are becoming indispensable shopping companions, and the degree to which we’ll rely on them in this year’s Christmas shopping frenzy. Far from emptying shopping malls, the advent of mobile shopping means that foot traffic through physical retail locations actually increases as we simultaneously seek out the best deals in store and online.

No doubt for retailers it’s critical to leverage the features of these devices to deliver a more immediate and relevant engagement with shoppers while they are actually in store.

Research recently published by global ecommerce platform Shopify makes for interesting reading. In analysing mobile data from over 35,000 Shopify-based stores, they predict that this Christmas one in four purchases made online will be made on a mobile device. This figure is set to jump to 43 per cent of all online purchases by next Christmas. Think about it. Nearly half of the purchases made online are going to come from a mobile device.

Tablet owners buy more

The Shopify data reveals that tablets generate the highest average order value of US$47 per order, which is 12 per cent higher than smartphones at $39 per order. This is a big hint that you need to make things work seamlessly on a tablet.

Back at home, the use of mobile devices mirrors the Shopify findings. Research by PwC and Frost & Sullivan shows that more than a quarter of all online purchases made in Australia are on either a smartphone or tablet. With six out of 10 Australian internet users owning a smartphone, consumers are relishing the ability to buy when they want, from wherever they are.

In Australia, online shopping represents 6.3 per cent of the total $258.3 billion retail market which is up 5.5 per cent from 2011. Indeed total online spending is expected to reach $16 billion this year and a further $26.9 billion by 2016.

Provide a useful mobile experience

Yet as popular as shopping is from a tablet or smartphone, many Australian retailers still don’t provide their customers with a useful mobile experience. A shrunken down version of a website is not a useful mobile experience.

Furthermore, the new iPad Mini presents a new screen size that sits between a mobile and standard tablet, so it’s important that your mobile presence is optimised for this new screen size too. Given tablet users’ propensity to shop from their devices, it’s critical that businesses acknowledge the entire mobile landscape and adapt to meet the needs of visitors using any device.

For most businesses, your bottom line revenue is directly linked to the quality of the experience you provide to customers online. Increasingly the quality of the experience you provide on a mobile device – whether a smartphone or tablet – will be the strongest influence on your ongoing success.