Tablets, what are they good for? Primarily shopping and entertainment, according to a new study into how consumers use their devices.

It found that two-thirds of US and UK tablet owners use their tablet for researching product information before buying online (66%), making it the most popular consumer activity.

This was closely followed by watching videos/browsing photos and checking prices or store information (both 63%).

The research by Usablenet confirms much of what we already know about tablets in that the devices are mainly used during ‘lean back’ leisure time in the home.

Only 5% of US and UK respondents stated that they use their tablet mostly for work compared to 73% who use their tablet primarily at home, either while watching TV or while in bed at night.

Here’s a quote from one US respondent:

I wouldn’t say I have a preference. I just use them at different times of the day. When I am doing my work on the laptop I would browse sites on there, when out and about I will use my iPhone and when at home in the evenings usually I am on the tablet.

Tablet browsing

When asked what matters most when browsing a website on a tablet, US and UK respondents were largely in agreement about the experience they expect site owners to deliver.

The two most popular answers were:

  • ‘A similar experience to desktop, but adapted for a tablet screen’ (29% US vs. 31% UK).
  • ‘The same content and experience as on a desktop site’ (31% US vs. 29% UK).

So essentially consumers want consistent content and ease of browsing/purchase, which doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.

The report shows that brands are largely aware of this issue, as 61% of the retailers surveyed believe that their customers want a browsing experience that is consistent with the desktop yet optimized for tablet, compared to 28% that think consumers prefer an experience similar to the smartphone.

Whether or not retailers are delivering a consistent, user-friendly experience on tablet is open to debate.

Usablenet’s research involved a poll of 100 retailers and 671 consumers, alongside diary studies of 12 tablet owners in the US and UK during the holiday shopping period of November 25 to December 6 2013.