Smartphones are for browsing, tablets are for buying. That’s if you believe the results of a recent Sapient/Nitro survey, which shows that 56% of consumers rate tablets as useful for shopping compared to just 38% on smartphones.

There’s no doubt any online retailer reading these results will sit up and take note. But in order to turn this into an actionable mobile strategy, it is important to understand more about consumer behaviour on mobile devices of all types and how that behaviour changes and evolves. 

Mobile does not equal mobile

Take this as an example: customer behaviour on mobile devices differs by time of day, by device and by person. Generally, we are more likely to use a smartphone to browse the web during the day when out and about or to check the price of an item online while shopping on the high street.   

But, at 6pm, sitting on the living room sofa, we are more likely to pick up our iPad and then buy the item we looked at on our phone earlier in the day. Why? It all centres on convenience: tablets have a larger screen, making it easier to complete a transaction. But you don’t want to carry a tablet around with you all day.

Both smartphones and tablets have a role to play in buying decisions. It’s just that these roles are different. And they are used in different ways at specific points of the buying cycle. So, when developing mobile capabilities, businesses need to think very carefully about the most likely use cases that customers will have for specific devices.    

Strategy analysis: examine use of your existing mobile channels

It is important to remember that different mobile experiences provide different opportunities to serve the customer. And this isn’t just confined to retail.

For example, an airline customer might not book a flight on a mobile phone but she might decide to use it for check-in, to alter booking details or access frequent flier information. Understanding what customers expect and delivering this to them as easily as possible is a key first step in any strategy. 

A viable mobile strategy is not rocket science, but it does require a brand to have visibility into the customer experience, a sensitive, flexible approach and clear business objectives.

With a true understanding of customer behaviour, companies can take a more informed approach to mobile and can better meet the very unique requirements of mobile shoppers.

Will tablets beat smartphones?

It’s the wrong question. Both have roles to play, it is just that these roles are different and need to be properly understood for a mobile strategy to succeed.

Geoff Galat

Published 4 July, 2012 by Geoff Galat

Geoff Galat is Worldwide VP of Marketing at IBM Tealeaf and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (2)


Dan Frydman

Based on the stats we see for a small range of eCommerce sites with sub £200k/year turnover, I'd agree that tablets are used more than smartphones.

However based on my personal use, I'm more inclined to buy on a smartphone during the day if I know there's a simple payment service provider process after basket and checkout.

Here PayPal in particular and Amazon (mainly via their excellent app) win hands down.

Mobile has to be about ease of use as an extension to convenience or users don't convert.

about 6 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

So tablet is replacing desktop, as the place where sales are made ? And will it replace laptop?

Certainly in my house the desktop is used only for heavy keyboard needs (homework essays / work reports).

If the tablet grows - then maybe that'll be the end of the IE Era (at last !) - Google's new Nexus 7 £200 tablet could the point where Android based tablets really push ahead, and become the standard platform (with iPad in a minority place like Mac is for desktops and latops) ?


about 6 years ago

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