From Browsing to Buying: The Tablet Shopper

Tuesday
Sep 17 2013

From Browsing to Buying: The Tablet Shopper

Tablets are a game-changing device for shopping. The mobility, functionality, and lean-back experience creates a different context for the act of shopping, spurs additional shopping moments, and fosters an emotional connection to shopping.

Tablets encourage a unique path to purchase, one that is driven more by the motivation to explore and discover than completing a simple  transaction--which is the dominant motivation behind shopping on desktop or laptop computers. People are clearly attracted to the way tablets inspire exploration and discovery through virtual window-shopping.

What is particularly interesting is that despite starting from a different place and with a very different shopping mindset, the tablet shopping experience ends in a purchase at the same rate as those consumers with computer shopping moments. 

How do we know this?

Recent AOL consumer research examined the behavior of one thousand online shoppers in each of two groups: those who shop on tablets and those who do not. We applied a multi-pronged methodology that included a consumer survey, a two-week diary exercise, and metered web tracking to capture both behavioral and attitudinal insights. This research expanded upon the insights we uncovered in our earlier Tablets of Change initiative.

An important finding from this effort is that it is more accurate to identify this group of shoppers as cross-platform as virtually all tablet shoppers use multiple screens to shop. 88% of shoppers use their computers to complement their shopping experience, and nearly half (49% to be precise) use their smartphones to shop. Bottom line: if it is connected, they will shop on it.

Because of this, tablet users tend to shop more often than other groups. Most agree that shopping on a tablet has changed how they browse things they might buy (60%), and around a third say they are purchasing even more now that they shop using a tablet. They also report having shopped more recently, and more frequently, than non-tablet users. In terms of spending, this seasoned group feels they are spending more money (20%), indulging themselves more often (26%), and even shopping more impulsively (21%) since they started shopping on a tablet. While tablet shoppers tend to be wealthier overall, impulse purchasing among tablet shoppers is not correlated with income.

This increased shopping is possible in part because tablets enable the lean-back experience for the consumer in a way that no other device can. Most tablet shoppers admit to multitasking while shopping on their tablets (they are often watching TV or using other devices). In fact, only 20% are not doing something else while shopping on their tablets. And almost all of this happens at home: 61% of tablet shopping takes place on the couch, and 20% takes place in bed. By contrast, 40% of online shopping done by computer takes place in a home office, vs. only 9% of tablet shopping.  It’s not surprising then that the majority of tablet shoppers say “researching and buying stuff on my tablet is fun” and that tablets are “the perfect device” for researching and buying products online.

In addition to multitasking, tablets enable other dimensions of the shopping experience. Whereas everyone shops for necessity— to fill a need, a cupboard or a closet – tablet shoppers are 20% more likely to be “strategizers” who take advantage of an offer, a promotion, or a coupon while shopping.  For them, the thrill of the hunt for a great deal is personally fulfilling and fun.

Tablet shoppers are also more likely to indulge in “retail therapy” (29% more likely) — shopping for no other reason than to pass the time, diffuse their boredom, or have something to do.  So it’s not surprising then that because tablet shopping is opening up new dimensions of multitasking, strategizing, and retail therapy, tablet shoppers are more likely to agree that they love shopping in general. A win-win for retailers!

What really sets tablet shopping apart are the motivations and mindsets that drive individual occasions. Unlike computer-based shopping moments, in which people state a much stronger intention to “make a purchase” or “check something off my list,” tablet moments most often start as occasions for “checking things out” – to get information, to find the best deal, or to research products and services. When online shoppers actually convert and make a purchase, their reasons for doing so are the same, regardless of the device they were using to shop, with convenience--in time, money, or selection--as the ultimate reason for driving nearly all online transactions.

So what does this mean for retailers and other marketers who want to attract tablet shoppers and earn their business?

  1. Tablet shopping moments are driven by motivations that are much different than other shopping moments. The path to purchase on the tablet is driven by making it easier to explore, by finding new things, and taking advantage of good deals.
  2. Tablet strategies must be oriented toward facilitating product discovery and exploration. When conducting site testing and app development, designers should ask, “How effective is the user interface in terms of delivering product discovery, and how satisfying is the browsing experience?” If the tablet shopping experience doesn’t encourage product discovery and virtual window-shopping, then the industry is not taking full advantage of the opportunity to surprise and delight the customer.
  3. Retailers need to design measurement programs that include the full spectrum of shopping dimensions, not just the transaction.  This means an intense focus on measuring both traditional success metrics like ROI and conversion rates, as well as including metrics aligned with the tablet shopper’s core motivators of product discovery and virtual window-shopping.
  4. Brand marketers cannot  underestimate the potential for the emotional connection people can have with brands and experiences in a tablet shopping moment. Tablet shoppers love shopping and relish the journey. This reframes how marketers should think about a tablet strategy, and suggests a different way for engaging with the shopper.

This research was presented on July 17 at the Shopper Insights in Action Conference.

Source: Tablets: Game Changing Shopping Device, a joint study from AOL & Research Now. Published July 2013.

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