Without a doubt, e-commerce has transformed consumer behavior in the United States. Instead of waiting in long lines or spending money on gas, we can buy virtually anything from online stores. From vintage clothes to oatmeal, the Internet gives us everything that we could possibly want through a streamlined shopping experience.
Still, two-dimensional Internet storefronts can never replace the holistic sensory experience of brick-and-mortar shopping. In stores, personalize our experiences through fitting rooms trips and feedback from retail associates. Online, we leave much to judgment, sorting through impersonal mannequins and hoping for a great return policy — just in case.
Enter the tablet, a device with strong potential to engage mobile consumers through interactive catalog apps. While only 11 percent of American adults own tablet devices, retailers like Saks, Anthropologie, and Wal-Mart are already experimenting with multimedia-driven shopping platforms that allow users to mix & match, browse items, build collages, and interact with brands beyond virtual shopping carts.
Given that 20 percent of mobile sales come from tablets, are these devices the future of digital commerce, and from a marketing standpoint, should retailers treat them differently from smartphones?
Catalog apps captivate users through personalized, media-driven experiences.
In today’s online ad space, behavioral targeting is the norm. Similarly, through catalog apps, retailers are giving consumers a highly personalized shopping experience. Unlike paper, a digital catalog can remember a shopper’s history, and it can respond to feedback and preferences. With quick load times, these apps can provide an added level of convenience to shopping online.
Using a tablet’s existing features, retailers can create media-driven shopping experiences. For instance, Gilt’s Jetsetter travel app will use the iPad’s accelerometer and gyroscope to help users visualize destinations from multiple angles with capabilities to zoom in, out, and around.
On a computer, users are restricted to pointing and quickly, but tablets allow stronger sensory experiences through touch by dragging, tapping, and moving merchandise. A closer look is —literally— fingertips away.
Tablet catalogs align with mobile consumer preferences.
Internet Retailer points out that “it’s not a coincidence that Apple’s iPad tablet is similar in size to a catalog.” While smartphones are primarily communication devices for calls, texts, and quick emails, tablets exist for portable media consumption — and catalog apps are a natural fit.
Through recent studies, researchers have found that in multi-device households, people actually prefer using their tablets for shopping, and the findings make sense. On communication-focused smartphones, consumers are confined to tiny screens that can make shopping difficult, but with media-driven tablets, people have plenty of viewing room to browse, click, and complete transactions.
While the tablet market is currently small, it’s mighty.
Right now, tablet owners are only a fraction of mobile users: 9 percent according to Forrester Research and 11 percent according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Still, the market is relatively robust with potential for growth.
As GigaOM points out, the modern tablet market is in its infancy at less than two years old. According to Forrester Research; however, the compound annual growth rate for tablet usage in the United States will be 51 percent from 2010 to 2015. In other words the market will get bigger.
Given that tablets cost hundreds of dollars, the vast majority of consumers won’t jump to start using them for catalog shopping overnight; however, the existing market shows potentially strong ROI. According to a report from Adobe Digital Marketing Insights, tablet users spend 50 percent more on online retail transactions than computer and smartphone users. They are also more likely to make a purchase.
The Bottom Line
The $300 billion print catalog industry
has taught us that media and commerce go hand-in-hand. Given this number, catalog apps seem to have high potential among a small but mighty group of mobile shoppers in the United Sates. From an ROI perspective for retailers; however, are they worth it, and will they catch on?