When marketers talk about e-commerce and digital marketing, tablets and smartphones often get grouped together within the mobile category.

It’s a useful, catch-all way of differentiating these two devices from desktop computers, but in reality the typical browsing and buying habits of a smartphone user are quite distinct from an average tablet user.

In a talk at E-commerce Expo Shop Direct Group’s e-commerce director Jonathan Wall said that the potential value of tablet users meant that businesses need to adopt an entirely separate strategy for the device.

Wall said that roughly 30% of traffic to Shop Direct’s sites, which include Littlewoods and Very, now comes from mobile devices, with smartphones accounting for a slightly higher percentage than tablets.

However tablets users convert at a higher rate than smartphones and drive a higher AOV than desktop.

This tallies with data we have seen from other sources, which is included in our blog post about tablets and the opportunity for marketers.

However the impressive conversion rate isn’t necessarily down to the usability of tablets. According to Wall:

Our data shows that the higher conversion rate is down to the demographic profile of tablet users, rather than the device itself.

Wall also said that one of his key challenges was working out which devices customers had used at each stage of the purchase journey, as an attribution model based on the last click before purchase failed to take into account the whole of the customer experience.

By tracking users across different devices Shop Direct has found that customers who use both a desktop and smartphone during their purchase journey convert at ten times the level of desktop-only customers.

Furthermore, when a customer uses a desktop and a tablet the conversion rate is 12 times higher than desktop-only, and when all three devices are used the conversion rate is 15 times higher. 

Search marketing

Wall said that Shop Direct has different PPC strategies for each device as users typically use very different search terms.

For example, search phrases on smartphones tend to be longer as users are searching for something specific rather than just browsing.

Also, only 28% visits from tablets come from brand search terms, compared to 34% on mobile and 39% on desktop.

Looking at the level of investment for each device, Wall said that CPCs on smartphones were lower than on desktop or tablet.

This backs up data from Marin Software’s Online Advertising Q2 2012 report, which found that mobile devices accounted for 13% of search spend in June 2012, yet took a 20% share of clicks.

However Wall also pointed out that as conversion rates are lower on smartphones, the ROI is also lower.

Give users what they want

As part of Shop Direct’s tablet strategy Wall said that, as with desktop, Shop Direct uses A/B and multivariate testing to develop and improve the customer journey.

Initially getting budget for mobile testing was difficult, but he overcame this issue by proving that every pound spent on user-testing would be offset by a resulting uplift in traffic and conversions. 

For example, data showed that 53% of smartphone customers enter the site on product pages compared to 44% on desktop, as mobile customers tend to be more specific about the product or item they are looking for.

As a result, it was important that the e-commerce team did more testing to improve mobile product pages to make sure users could find the information they were looking for and reduce the bounce rate.