Before the tablet, the online shopper approached mobile shopping with a checklist: search for what I need, review options, find trusted provider with fair/best price and reasonable/free shipping and place order. The tablet’s emergence as a major online sales channel has shifted the consumer’s shopping journey and brand engagement significantly, according to Kyle Priest (left), partner and chief strategy officer for Crown Partners, an eBusiness firm. The tablet is redefining mobile, even digital, commerce in three primary ways, he says.
The tablet form factor alone has created new user behaviors. Consumers now access the web from more comfortable seating more frequently, including the couch, recliner and bed. Consumers now take a larger form factor web device (their tablet) with them more places. New day parts for sales have emerged in some categories. Where many people would log on outside of work, mobile has increased certain day parts for certain. And the tablet has further morphed those day parts by providing a device large enough to shop easily that is not their work computer. Other day parts remain strong with the tablet as we see the portability and screen size ratio become widely accepted, and even preferred, by consumers in their own homes vs. the laptop/desktop computer, or their smaller form factor smart device.
The tablet, unlike the smartphone before it or the traditional web experience, lets the consumer more viscerally interact with the web content on a screen that promotes this interaction. Where a smartphone is too small for lengthy web interaction, and a laptop is typically not touchscreen enabled, the tablet has invited the customer to touch and participate. And while they may not be able to feel the merchandise directly, consumers can control the shopping experience more than in a menu-driven web environment. The portability and ease of use are creating increased browsing behaviors and as a direct result more engagement with products and services. The degree to which retailers embrace this form factor will be the degree to which they can increase eCommerce sales by converting more and more consumers and by increasing the frequency, duration and depth of consumer engagement online.
While tablets cannot be accredited with the expansion of social community interaction online, they are a major contributing factor, Priest continues. eTailers know the criticality of social commentary to the conversion in the shopping journey. Retailers entering the online space or doubling-down to grow there are clamoring to add customer feedback, ratings, reviews and more to make products more attractive and increase buyer confidence in making a decision to buy. Because the tablet leverages all the powerful social mobility that consumers are accustomed to, with a richer and more enjoyable way to browse and buy, social communities, social content integration and social promotion are the next battlefield for competitive eCommerce providers, Priest notes.
While the digital customer experience in stores is quickly amassing clear best practices and lower return efforts, many retailers are embracing the tablet form factor to enable the sales force on the floor. Again, the tablet has created the perfect mix of form and function to provide a wealth of information and business functionality to the salesperson to, in turn, provide a better experience at retail. Instead of walking to the counter or back room for more information, sales staff can check inventory without the customer walking away. Items not on the floor can be shown and demonstrated to the customer immediately on the tablet. Purchases can be easily captured. Customers’ preferences can be entered. All with the speed and visibility, by both the sales person and the customer, to have a meaningful, fast engagement. For several retailers, this is at or near the top of the priority list.
All of these areas are a natural progression of mobile maturity, but they are so much more than that. If we just enable the same types of transactions and interactions online, then we have missed the genius of the Tablet as the customer has defined it: Easy to read, fast connectivity, the freedom of mobility with acceptable portability and engaging human touch interaction. All around us are emergent examples of effective eCommerce and in-store tablet performance.
Ultimately, the consumer has and will continue to want the benefits of the Internet when they want it, how they want it and where they want it, Priest points out. And while each device type—computer, smartphone, and tablet—has its time and place, the customer expects seamless brand engagement across these devices. Responsive design is at the core of brand engagement online. The ability for companies to enable a unified experience that is adaptive to the form factor of the device is more than desired. Consumers expect it.
As these and other technology trends emerge, the consumer expectation in fact remains consistent. Companies that focus on meeting the customer with the right content, on the right device and in the right format that elicits the most engagement, are the companies that will drive increased brand engagement over time while making the register ring more frequently. Those that wisely tap into the strengths of the tablet’s unique appeal to customers will take their overall eCommerce performance to the next level and beyond.
Kyle Priest is a partner and chief strategy officer for Crown, an eBusiness firm providing digital commerce, content, communications, and analytics services to growth-oriented companies. firstname.lastname@example.org.