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What does the word mobile mean? To many companies, including those in retail, mobile is used to describe any connected device that's portable.

That makes some sense: despite the fact that there are differences between the growing number of connected devices that can fit in a pocket or bag, there are often enough similarities, at least on the surface, to justify putting them in the same bucket. But can and should the all-encompassing use of mobile translate to strategy?

There is increasing evidence that the answer to that question is no.

The latest: according to a new report by Experian Marketing Services, tablet devices lend themselves to shopping far more than mobile devices. In a survey of thousands of consumers, Experian found that 39% of tablet owners have shopped using their tablets compared to just 8% of smartphone owners.

Experian's study also revealed some surprises. While other research has indicated that smartphones are more likely to be used for product research than tablets, this may not be an established truth. According to Experian, tablets beat out smartphones for research as well, with 38% of those in its study preferring to use tablets for research versus 15% who preferred smartphones. Even more surprising, and perhaps worthy of further investigation: Experian discovered that the individuals it polled were scanning barcodes with their tablets more than they were with their smartphones.

Two different markets, two different strategies?

Obviously, smartphone penetration is much greater than tablet penetration, so retailers should keep in mind that even if the percentage of tablet owners using their devices to engage in commerce is higher, there are still a lot of smartphone owners who are doing the same. They can't simply be ignored.

But when it comes to serving tablet and smartphone owners, the evidence is mounting that retailers need to consider that these two groups are distinct. While there is certainly overlap between tablets and smartphones as far as capabilities and characteristics go, there is enough in the way of differences, particularly when it comes to how consumers are actually using these devices, to warrant separate strategies going forward.

Patricio Robles

Published 28 February, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

I want to use the term Smart rather than mobile. Tablets have a distinct characteristic to mobile and are much closer to the desktop experience. It's interesting that Google feels the same with it's move to group tablet and desktop together in PPC. I believe the common perception is that Tablets sit on the coffee table and get used to browse while either talking or watching the TV. Mobile however gets used when we are out and about and so are more likely used for price comparison on lower priced items like clothing and electrical goods as well as communicating.

over 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

At Schuh the volume of tablet traffic was so high it was well worth out time developing a tablet optimised site (launched just before Christmas) http://t.schuh.co.uk which then completed the triptych; the mobile site: http://m.schuh.co.uk and the desktop site http://www.schuh.co.uk.

This allowed us to optimise the journeys for these devices, seeing good conversion improvements in doing so. Customer feedback has been very positive, however we recognise that we still have some way to go.

over 3 years ago

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