Tablet Isn't Mobile!

By Sarah Etter

May 10, 2012

While the heat is on for websites to step up their mobile and tablet game, there's one thing being lost in the mix. Tablet isn't mobile, and implementing the same features to cover both bases means leaving money on the table.

According to a Compuware study, Engaging the Tablet User: What They Expect from Websites, tablet users are more likely to expect a "fast and flawless" shopping experience. What does that mean? They want the tablet browsing experience to be better than the desktop experience.

If those needs aren't met, the study found that 46% of tablet browsers who had a "bad experience" shopping on an online retailer's website would turn to a competitor the next time they wanted to buy.

And here's why that number is scary: According to Milo, a website that offers users the ability to find out which products are in stock at a store near them, tablet browsers spend more than smartphone shoppers. Milo found tablet users spent $123 on commerce, while mobile users spent $80. So failing to give this segment of shoppers exactly what they want—on the first visit—is going to cost you.

Here's how to make sure your website is primed for tablet shoppers and you capture those sales:

Don’t make an app for that. According to a report from Alexander Interactive, “few [tablet] users actively download apps.” Instead, they want to visit a website optimized for their device. So test your site to ensure it stays true to size  on iPads, Kindle Fires, and other tablets. Then, try tweaking button sizes and navigation bars on your site so they translate to tablet properly.

Streamline the shopping experience. Clean design enhances the tablet experience and leads to higher conversions. So focus on necessary functions, like prominent search bars and predictive search, and offer features that take advantage of their device. A few ideas from the Alexander Interactive report:

  • Implement tap-zoom functionality to make browsing fun on a tablet.
  • Offer scrolling instead of pagination for browsing.
  • Use larger fonts on product pages for fast, easy reading.
  • Ensure the website reads properly in both portrait and landscape to take advantage of the tablet’s abilities.
  • Offer a one-page checkout to make it fast and easy for tablet browsers to convert.

Make optimization your priority. Among the chief complaints from tablet users who said they had a bad experience on a website: Slow load time. How can you make sure that doesn’t happen? Shaun Gallagher, one of Monetate’s front-end engineers, says the big things that’ll slow down tablet page loading are videos, large images, complex DOM manipulation on page load, and unoptimized HTML/CSS.

Best bet: To avoid the perception of a slow page load, try to render your site as much as possible using HTML/CSS, then start DOM manipulation on page load. Another smart move, especially for product shots: Explicitly set the width and height of page elements in your HTML/CSS. That way, if you have a large image that takes a few seconds to load, the browser doesn't have to wait until the image is done loading to determine its size.

Want to find even more ways to please tablet browsers? Monetate’s Ultimate Guide to Reaching Tablet Shoppers is full of more info.

Sarah Etter is the former the senior editor at Monetate. Before joining Monetate, she was a writer for various online and print publications, and served as the associate editor of The Internet & Marketing Report newsletter. Sarah also loves fiction writing and ice hockey... yes, ice hockey.

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