As use of the smartphone for shopping gets more prolific it’s important to investigate the role that tablets now play – is there a merging of devices or do they fulfil distinct roles for shoppers?
When we conducted our study on digital shopping this time last year there were notable differences in the usage of tablets versus smartphones. Shopping on a phone predominately involved comparing prices and finding stores. In contrast, tablets had broader usage across the shopping journey, particularly at the browsing and buying phase. Just 12 months on and it seems we’re more likely to be using our phones at any and all stages of the journey, even to purchase products.
So increasingly we’re using our phones at the back end of the shopping process not just the beginning. Shoppers are becoming more comfortable transacting on their smartphone, especially when it comes to websites visited frequently and where an account has been set up taking the hassle out of entering payment details on a small device.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean shoppers complete the journey from start to finish on their phone. Talking to shoppers, the phone seems to be increasingly used to buy repeat purchases, rather than a new product where exploration or research is done upfront. When shoppers know exactly what they want the phone feels the ideal device to buy from: it’s hassle free, low involvement and above all high speed.
That said, the phone is equally suitable for the front end of the journey, particularly when it comes to shortlisting products or websites. Many of the shoppers we spoke to were making mental lists of products to revisit when they were at home on a larger screen. Some shoppers were even putting items in the basket as a way of bookmarking for review, before completing a final transaction at a later time. Predominantly this was done as a way of saving or filling time whilst out and about.
Of course, all of this feels quite a functional approach to shopping, less about enjoying downtime and more about filling it. Ultimately could this remain the key difference between tablets and smartphones? Whilst there is undoubtedly a convergence when it comes to the different stages of the shopping journey, the mind-set of shopping on a tablet versus a mobile phone still feels distinct. Tablets remain the ultimate browsing experience when shopping is about pleasure and curiosity rather than providing time saving solutions.
With this in mind, it’s important for retailers and brands to acknowledge that while the shopping activities between tablets and smartphones may be increasingly similar, the requirements and needs of shoppers while carrying out those activities remains quite different.
In terms of the future, m-commerce will continue to transform the retail landscape at an unprecedented rate. Smartphone usage especially is becoming the new norm, and mobile shoppers are keen to spread the word. However, it’s important to acknowledge that shopping on a smartphone is still in its infancy so retailers still need to keep it simple and ensure sites and apps are easy to use. It’s also about delivering tools that give a clear end benefit to shoppers.
Shoppers are using smartphones to become more savvy and above all empowered. The smart brands and retailers are adapting their integrated marketing plans to ensure m-commerce is a strong touch point in the purchase process, in order to capitalise on this growing shopper behaviour. Be ready!