How to Differentiate the Tablet Experience

Any of you veterans of the catalog shopping and magazine advertising industry might still bemoan the sad demise of their former moneymaking platforms.

The iconic image of a shopper curled up on a sofa with his or her favorite print catalog or glossy magazine, smiling while comfortably cradling a cordless phone may seem like a diorama of yesteryear. But the fact is that the shopper and the sofa are still there, and sometimes even the catalog is still there (though we would argue the cordless phone is gone). Nowadays though, more often than not, that catalog is replaced with a tablet.

The catalog customer of yore is not that different from today’s smart, tablet-wielding shopper. According to a November 2011 study by Mashable, 20 percent of all retail mobile e-commerce transactions come from tablets. The use of mobile devices for e-commerce transactions will surpass the $30 billion mark by 2016, and tablets are expected to lead this growth.

Tablets and shopping seem to go hand-in-hand, just ask Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his push for the Kindle line of tablets. Retailers need to pay attention to this trend, regardless of their status as online or brick-and-mortar shopkeepers. How can they take advantage of the unique opportunity afforded by tablet screens?

Intuitive User Interface = Pleasant User Experience

Tablet users love interacting with their devices, largely because Android, iOS and the new Windows 8 operating systems feature appealing interfaces with rich and colorful imagery that intuitively responds to touch. There is an element to tablets that puts shoppers in a relaxed mood for browsing, an effect similar to the one achieved by designers of catalogs and magazines in the past. We don’t quite know whether there’s a term for this but it’s very much real…anyone else know?

Knowing that shoppers armed with tablets are likely to relax and browse, retailers should be focusing on two fronts: native apps for tablets and responsive web design. The jury is still out on whether tablet users prefer apps to browsers. What is known, however, is that if a retail outlet does not offer an experience to match the tablet interface, they will look elsewhere.

Retailers should definitely be rushing to optimize their websites for tablets and should talk to their webmasters about adopting responsive web design for different screen sizes and operating systems. For those of you who aren’t aware what responsive web design is, try resizing this very window. Does our blog re-size with the window? Not so much. (Sorry – we’ll get there some day!) Now head over to the Boston Globe and re-size your window. See how it shapes and forms to meet the new window size? Pretty cool, huh? More on responsive design to come in an upcoming blog post…btw.

One-size-fits-all does not apply anymore – particularly when talking tablet. Size and layout needs to be geared to shoppers who enjoy browsing and impulse shopping since that’s what they’re still doing from their couches.