Categorizing tablets has vexed marketers since Apple first introduced the iPad in 2010. Several years into the tablet market’s dramatic expansion, the distinctions between smart devices are becoming clearer.
According to a new eMarketer report, “Key Digital Trends for Midyear 2013: The Fragmentation of Mobile,” diverging use cases on smartphones and tablets herald the end of mobile as a monolithic category. Increasingly, advertising and commerce solutions will need to respond to not just different screen sizes, but also different screen uses.
Distinctions in use between the smartphone, tablet and “phablet” are driven in part by form factor. Tablets, with their larger screens, offer a better experience for so-called “lean-back” activities like media consumption, shopping and experiences.
Overall, more US consumers shop on their smartphones than on their tablets—102 million vs. 94 million in 2013, according to April estimates from eMarketer. That is partly because more consumers own smartphones than they do tablets and use them in more situations. On a percentage basis, a larger share of tablet owners (84%) are forecast to shop on their devices, compared with smartphone owners (75%).
When it comes to actual purchasing, the behavioral differences between smartphone and tablet owners are especially pronounced. eMarketer predicts nearly 71 million tablet owners will make purchases via their device this year, compared with 53 million buyers using smartphones. And a much higher percentage of tablet users will make purchases than smartphone users, at 63% vs. 39%, respectively.
These distinctions make smartphones a more essential partner for marketers looking to drive consumers into stores or connect with them in-store as they showroom—such as searching for product reviews, comparing prices and looking for deals. By contrast, as tablets steal time from TV-watching and dollars spent on the desktop, they will compete for brand advertising budgets.
Tablets are already taking a fast-rising share of ad requests. Context dictates different action metrics in response to ads served to tablets and smartphones. A survey from IDG Research Services, for example, found tablet owners in 2012 to be far more likely than smartphones owners to click on ads, and also to research or purchase a product after seeing an ad. However, the discrepancies were minor when it came to looking for a product in a retail store, suggesting, as a number of studies have shown, that a relevant ad—combined with proximity to a brick-and-mortar store—can be effective at driving smartphone owners through the door.
Ultimately, with a range of activities occurring along multiple paths and different screens, marketers have the ability—and increasingly the need—to influence a purchase almost anywhere. Thanks to the proliferation of touchpoints across mobile devices, ecommerce is no longer just “electronic” commerce. Now, it’s “everywhere” commerce.