Tablet visitors to e-commerce sites spend 20% more than desktop shoppers, and twice as much as those using smartphones, according to a new report. 

Adobe's Digital Marketing Insights report takes its data from 16.5bn visits to more than 150 retailers last year, and shows that AOVs from tablets are higher than from other devices. 

It also suggests that retailers should consider optimising the experience for tablet users. 

Percentage of visits from tablets

Before retailers get too excited by the figures, it's important to note that tablet users make up a small proportion of total visits, just 4% on average. 

However, this is a growing proportion, rising from 1% in January 2011 to 4% in December. 

In stats from August, of the 1.57m sales generated by affiliates in August, 77,082 were made via mobile devices. 27,551 were via iPad, 26,360 on iPhone, and 13,862 on Android. 

In these stats, the iPad accounted for 0.9% of all visits, much lower than Adobe's, yet contributed 1.75% of all sales. 

Many more tablets were sold over Christmas, so the number of people accessing e-commerce sites on tablets is only going one way for the moment. 

Smartphone use is also growing, doubling from 3% in January 2011 to 6% in December. 

If they haven't already, retailers should be optimising for mobile, but should also consider whether or not they need to cater separately for tablet users.

Tablet conversion rates and average order values (AOV)

Some recent stats from Affiliate Window found that iPads were converting at double the rate of desktop. However, these stats come from incentivised sales, and may not therefore be the norm for most retailers. 

The Adobe stats do show that iPads convert well though, almost at the same rate as desktop. When you consider that the experience on tablets is inferior to that on desktop and laptop, this is still impressive. 

The average conversion rate via tablet was 2.3%, compared with 2.5% for desktop, while mobile lags behind on 0.6%. 

It is when you look at average order values that we see the value of tablet visitors. The AOV for tablets in 2011 was $123, compared to $102 for desktop and $80 for smartphones. 

The average order value for the holiday shopping season 2011 was consistently higher than desktop as well, peaking at $129 on Black Friday. 

Why is the tablet so valuable? 

This is an easy answer. The simple fact is that users of iPads and other tablets are generally from higher income groups, and therefore have more money to spend. 

According to stats in the survey, tablet owners skew to the 18-34 age group, and 29% have an annual income greater than $75,000. 

As cheaper tablet devices come onto the market, and they become more mainstream, it's possible that this effect will be diluted. 

There is also the habits of tablet shoppers to consider. 34% shopped on the weekends, compared with 24% and 27% for desktop and smartphone 

A 2011 OPA study reported 58% of tablet use occurs at home. According to the same study, 52% of tablet owners prefer to shop online using their tablets, while 40% preferred using a traditional computer.

Though the iPad is an excellent device, it has no magic formula that makes shopping easier, though there is potential for retailers to create better user experiences in this area. 

Tablets are good for general browsing online, but there are usability issues on e-commerce sites which retailers need to account for to maximise conversions. 

Implications for retailers

Look at your traffic stats

The 4% of visits from tablets is an average across a range of different retailers. It may be higher or lower depending on the sector. 

A look at visitor stats should tell retailers whether or not it is necessary to produce a version of your website that caters for tablets. 

However, mobile should be considered here. If you have more visits from smartphones, and you have yet to optimise for mobile, this may be the bigger opportunity. 

Test your website

The first step is to look at how your site works on tablets. Does the site work well? Are there any problems during checkout? And so on.

Testing with a number of users will help you to identify areas for improvement. 

Retailers need a separate approach for tablets

Tablet and smartphone shoppers represent different segments, with different buying habits, and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. 

If you have a decent proportion of visits from tablet users, it's worth catering for them with the best user experience possible. 

Optimising for tablets should generate higher ROI

If tablet users are already spending more on average than smartphone, and almost as much as desktop users, then providing the best possible experience should increase the income from this segment.  

Tablet users respond to promotions

The stats show spikes in tablet conversion rates of 3.4% on Black Friday and 4.3% on Cyber Monday, compared to the 2011 average of 2.3%

This is likely to be the result of the numerous promotions offered by retailers during this period. 

Designing promotions and discounts that appeal to tablet users and cater for the device is a tactic worth trying. 

Graham Charlton

Published 19 January, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)

Matt Swan

Matt Swan, Head of Business Intelligence at Affiliate Window

Hi Graham,

Very interesting article. I have actually been looking at our most recent mobile stats which may be of interest.

In December we tracked around 140,000 transactions through mobile devices (including the iPad) which is a significant increase on the 77,000 that we saw for August.

Of these, 77,000 came through the iPad, 43,000 through the iPhone and 15,000 through Android devices. A full breakdown of our mobile stats can be found here:

Also, in my recent article I look at our Christmas activity and the difference in peaks in traffic and transactions, for mobile vs desktop.


over 6 years ago

Jonathan Wolf

Jonathan Wolf, Director of Product Strategy, EMEA at Bazaarvoice


Is there maybe a causality problem here? I'd theorise that tablet owners are more affluent than the general population, which could explain the higher AOV. It would be interesting to compare the tablet AOV to the AOV of people who own tablets but are browsing/buying from their traditional PC.


over 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi Jonathan - yes, definitely, though there may also be something in the use of iPads during leisure time as well.

I suspect this 'wealthy tablet owner' effect will be diluted once cheaper tablet devices eat into Applle's market share, though it may apply specifically for the iPad for some time to come.

over 6 years ago


Akshata Madhav, Group Analytics Manager at NewLook


For some reason we see Visitors for ipad higher than visits. Does anyone know why this could be? tracking issue?

Please advice.


over 6 years ago


Carlene Byron

Another possibility is that those tablet users are older and (back to the affluence measures) can spend more disposable income.

I'm suspicious of this study's finding that tablet users are skewing 18-35 ... other studies found tablets more prominent in the Boom (bifocal!) generation. Did the 18-35's get tablets for Christmas this year?

over 6 years ago

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