Tablet skyrocketing as mobile commerce device of choice

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A revolution is taking place in the way consumers shop online, with overall mobile sales doubling over the last year to a whopping $60 billion in value, and the tablet exploding on the scene as the payment device of choice.

That is the finding of the last report from Javelin Strategy & Research, "Mobile Payments Market: Tablet Shopping Surges as Mobile Retail Sales Top $60 Billion."

FierceCIO spoke with Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director of mobile at Javelin Research, about the findings, and what they all mean for retailers. Javelin surveyed 3,492 consumers in June 2012, another 3,285 consumers in July 2013, and an additional 3,509 consumers in November 2013 as part of the research.

Monahan prefaced the discussion by noting that Javelin has been surveying the mobile payments market for half a dozen years, but only has historical trend data for the past two. That is due to changing the questions being asked in the annual survey in 2012, making it impossible to compare results from before or after that time, except anecdotally.

There was a clear distinction in the 2013 survey results that holds an important message for retailers, Monahan says: consumers are rapidly turning to the tablet as the shopping tool of choice.

"Tablets played a dominant role in mobile shopping this year, accounting for approximately one-half of all mobile sales," Monahan says.

In 2013, tablets accounted for a massive $28.7 billion in mobile online commerce. That represents a quintupling of the 2012 mobile tablet sales total of $5.1 billion.

"The portion of commerce generated through tablets is fueled by rising device ownership, as mobile consumers ownership of the devices doubled since 2012. As tablet ownership rates continue to grow, the devices are expected to serve as an increasingly dominant purchase channel," the research report notes.

Monahan says the rapid growth of tablets on mobile commerce payments may be connected with the growing use of tablets overall. It's no secret that tablet sales are on the rise, while PC sales are on the decline. She believes this is reflected in cultural changes in which the tablet is becoming a new appendage like the smartphone has become.

The other major trend revealed by the study is that consumers are mixing behaviors and mixing devices in their online shopping practices. This includes the PC, tablet, smartphone and in-store visits. Other retail studies have confirmed this same trend, with shoppers doing the bulk of their online browsing on a PC or tablet, doing in-store visits to inspect actual merchandise, and using smart phones to get quick comparison information on-the-spot.

Based on the study findings, Monahan says there is a very loud and clear message for retailers for 2014. The tablet is the new mobile commerce tool of choice, and retailers need to target their applications to the tablet user.

"Consumers are increasingly turning to tablets and phones for purchasing despite the fact that many sites are not ideally set up yet for mobile devices--and creating opportunity for vendors who are prepared for the onslaught," the report states. "Vendors and merchants are now challenged to seamlessly integrate mobile into the online and in-store search and shopping experience. Consumer spend on tablets surpassed phones for the first time in 2013 as tablet adoption swelled."

"Creating tablet-optimized shopping experiences through the app and browser should be a top priority for merchants and other parties looking to capitalize on the growth of mobile online payments," the report advised.

That advice is especially important if the research firm's projections for tablet online sales payments hold true. According to the research study, mobile proximity payments are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 62 percent over the next five years.

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