For various reasons, the correlation between tablet ownership and disposable income being the most obvious, tablet shoppers are very valuable customers for online retailers.
Despite this, there are very few examples of sites that have optimised for tablets, though a few brands have done so.
I've been looking at the tablet optimised versions of eBay, Blackberry and Staples (all US sites).
Possible UX issues for tablet shoppers
Generally, the e-commerce experience on tablets is acceptable. It's way superior to that of mobile, but falls below that of desktop, though it's much closer to the latter.
According to a recent Econsultancy / Toluna survey of 2,000 online consumers, the user experience for tablets, rated across five sectors, was generally good or excellent.
There are some common UX issues when viewing e-commerce sites on tablets. These include:
'Fat finger' syndrome
The finger is not as precise as the cursor, so there is more scope for error when clicking links and buttons. If links are close together, or too small, this can cause a lot of frustration for customers.
Often, they don't work at all for tablets, as they can be designed to deploy on mouse-over.
If they have tons of links, like this one from River Island, there's a massive 'fat finger' problem. For me anyway, it's virtually impossible to select the right link here without zooming in.
Also, I can't close the menu without clicking outside of the area. However, if I do that, since the images link to category pages, I end up somewhere else.
Product images and videos
Zoom tools and rotating views often don't function in the same way on tablets, meaning it's harder to get a true impression of the product.
Data entry is trickier on a touch screen keyboard, so customers need short forms and all the shortcuts they can get.
Tablet optimised sites
There is a tablet version of eBay at touch.ebay.com which contains fewer links than the desktop version, instead focusing on a search box and images representing the different sections of the site.
Users also have the option of scrolling through the product categories in gallery mode, which some tablet users may prefer.
You can also swipe to scroll through product images, though the experience very much depends on the size and quality of images uploaded by the seller.
It's designed to be 'swipe-able' so users can flick through product images and see various angles with ease:
The Staples tablet version, which can be found at t.staples.com, is designed for touch-screen, visual browsing.
The entire homepage fits the screen precisely and users can swipe left and right to view product categories and special offers, though alternative navigation options are available. The drop-downs from the desktop version have been slimmed down.
Product pages are well-designed, with the blue tabs on the left enabling shoppers to switch between info, reviews, accessories etc with ease. The product images could be larger though.
However, the checkout forms could be made more appealing to tablet users. This one looks a bit of a chore:
Do you need a tablet optimised site?
Since most e-commerce sites work reasonably well on tablets, I can see why very few retailers have done so thus far. It may also be the case that more can be gained by launching mobile commerce sites.
There is a strong argument for responsive design, so that sites work across a range of devices and screen sizes, and the stats should give you the answer.
Are tablets driving a decent volume of traffic to your website? If so, then the opportunity is there to make the most of this traffic by improving the user experience and making the purchase journey as smooth as possible.
Secondly, if there are significant UX barriers when your site is viewed on iPad, then an investment in fixing this may pay off. After all, tablet usage looks set to grow and grow.
Are there any other examples of tablet-optimised e-commerce sites out there? Is it worth an investment in this area? Please let me know below...