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Tablets slated to make a splash with retailers in 2012

January 19, 2012

Retailers need to ride the tablet wave

From companies developing tablet-specific strategies to the recent explosion of new tablet devices on the market, retailers will undoubtedly be affected with marketing and selling new devices in 2012 and will need to focus on defining the tablet as a category of its own.

Specifically, electronics retailers will be faced with including a new generation of ereaders into their inventories and finding ways to mass market them to consumers. Retailers also need to find ways to include commerce in their own mobile initiatives.

“Previously, the 10-inch screen dominated the tablet market,” said Scott Rankin, senior vice president of technology merchandising for Staples, Framingham, MA.

“However the proliferation of ereader tablets, specifically Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, both of which we rolled out at Staples, has made seven-inch screens extremely popular,” he said.

New devices
Although the Windows Phone 7 operating system was hyped by experts as being the next big thing for mobile, it fell flat and has yet to live up to its expected potential.

However, Staples is already gearing up for the next line of Windows-based devices and has its eye on Windows 8 devices for 2012.

“They will be used for an exciting mix of content consumption and productivity as you can watch video and surf the Web one minute, and then dock it similar to a laptop and work on a presentation the next,” Mr. Rankin said.

“Right now, if you are only looking to check email and read some documents while travelling, a tablet makes perfect sense,” he said.

“However, if you need to work on a PowerPoint or Excel file, laptops are still the way to go. That will change though with the arrival of Windows 8 tablets later this year.”

According to data Staples recently compiled, there will be 82.1 million tablet users in the United States by 2015.

The average tablet user spends 90 minutes per day on a device and has spent $34 on applications, per Staples’ findings.

Additionally, 88.3 percent of tablet owners use their device while on the road, showing how consumers are using tablets to replace desktops and laptops while on the go.

Tab into shopping
In addition to knowing which tablets are predicted to be hot items for 2012, retailers also have to include more mobile commerce into their digital strategy this year.

As proof, IBM recently reported that iPads accounted for seven percent of all Web sales on Christmas Day (see story).

Tablets often generate more commerce activities because they involve more of a lean-back experience where users have more time to shop.

With retailers realizing the potential of the tablet, many have rolled out sophisticated apps that let users find in-store inventory, check prices and view additional information about a product.

“After the huge explosion of mobile and tablet-based purchases this holiday season, I think it is safe to say that marketers can anticipate this trend to stick around,” said Greg Palmer, marketing and business development coordinator at Trilibis Mobile, San Mateo, CA.

Now, having a tablet-optimized, commerce-enabled mobile site is not just an added bonus – it is essential for retailers that are looking to drive as many sales as possible via the tablet.

Additionally, brands need to think of tools that will be relevant for a tablet user instead of for a smartphone user, including more detailed product information, additional reviews and links to other relevant Web sites.

“Tablet use is relatively still in its infancy and all signs are pointing to expansion in the years to come,” Mr. Palmer said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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