The iPad Shopping Cart

The dawn of the iPad era has put the spotlight mostly on publishing. The iPad, after all, is a consumption device, we’re told. But it’s also a shopping vehicle.

According to new data from Forrester Research, although only 9 percent of web shoppers actually own tablet devices, most of those people are already smartphone and PC owners. And more than half of that early-adapting, plugged-in demographic prefers to shop online using tablets. In some cases, particularly in the valuable Gen Y demo, consumers are purchasing tablets as their primary computing device and, when given a choice between using their laptops and their tablets, choose the tablet.

Like laptops, tablets are used primarily at home. According to the report, consumers use smartphones to augment their in store experiences, with comparison shopping apps and location based marketing programs. But the research suggests that tablets, which offer a variety of ways with which to interact with onscreen content, are more suited to at home shopping. And, according to Forrester, as the synchronization of tablet and television develops, the two screens will combine to offer consumers a rich shopping environment.

It makes sense that iPads would do a good job at e-commerce — or better than phones. The same qualities that make the iPad enjoyable for reading — a large screen, crisp images, flexible navigation — would apply to retail experiences.

Yet the research suggests that few merchants have customized their content for the devices, missing the opportunity to take advantage of the devices’ features. Additionally, although more than half of tablet device owners said they have accessed retail apps, including retailer-specific apps, many retailers have delayed developing apps for the devices, preferring to optimize their web content instead.

And, finally, although a little more than one quarter of consumers are considering buying a tablet device in the next 12 months, 74 percent of consumers are not; almost two thirds of those who have no plans to purchase a tablet said they didn’t think they needed it.

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