Ozzie Osbourne and Justin Bieber may have played out the scenario best this past February during their critically-acclaimed Super Bowl commercial: these days, technology changes constantly. From what retailers are observing, the hottest, fastest-moving technology right now is tablet devices.

Though not a phone by standard definition, tablets, like smartphones, have changed the way people across the world access news, shop for services and merchandise, and entertain themselves. Tablets have become so popular, Nielsen reports that 35 percent of surveyed tablet owners who also own a desktop computer admit to using their desktop less often or not at all, and 32 percent of those who also owned laptops used the laptop less often or never since acquiring a tablet. According to a recent LA Times article citing research about the sales of personal computers, PC sales dropped 11 percent in the first quarter of 2011,  the largest drop in nearly a decade.

NRF’s digital division, Shop.org, recently released industry research regarding retailers’ use of tablets and how important they are to their business. According to the State of Retailing Online report, tablets account for 21 percent of a retailer’s total mobile traffic. Knowing this, it’s fair to assume retailers are moving at lightning speed to capture the attention of the millions of tablet owners around the world. When it comes to inserting tablets into their daily operations,  the survey also found 30 percent of respondents said a main objective for their mobile platform will be to provide store associates with tablets to improve selling. In fact, Nordstrom just announced plans to put 5,000 mobile checkout devices into workers’ hands at 116 full-line clothing stores by the start of its Anniversary Sale in July.

What lies ahead for tablets is anyone’s guess. Just a few years ago, the thought that small retailers would be utilizing tablets to process credit card payments was inconceivable. Or that Disney Stores and Urban Outfitters would be using iPod Touch devices, like Apple stores do, to ring up customers’ purchases and email them their receipts upon request.

With the popularity of tablets spreading like wildfire, NRF research partner BIGresearch recently dug into the type of people who own them, what they do for a living, how they spend their time, what influences their online purchases most and what on earth they do while using their tablet. The research, conducted for Shop.org and released to member companies, compares tablet owners to smartphone owners and the average adult over 18+. A few astounding highlights are below. View the special report here.

  • Nearly one in 10 (9.4%) tablet owners say sponsored links/results greatly influence their purchases when searching online for a product or service. That’s compared to only4.5 percent of smartphone owners and 3.1 percent of other adults.
  • When asked how often they watch the video commercials that companies play before the actual video content, 29.5 percent of tablet owners say they regularly watch the commercial, compared to just 16.9 percent of smartphone owners and 12.3 percent of others.
  • After searching online, more than one in five (22.3%) say they blog about it – just 10.9 percent of smartphone owners and 6.3 percent of other adults use blogs to spread the word. Tablet owners are also much more likely to send an email and post it on Facebook or Twitter.

So who are these tablet owners?

  • The average age of a tablet owner is 36.8, younger than smartphone owners (39.2) and the average adult (45.3).
  • Mostly male (61%)
  • Have an average salary of $86,516 – much more than the average $77,570 smartphone owners bring home and $63,696 the average American over 18 makes
  • Three in 10 (30.0%) play team sports (compared to 21.2% of smartphone owners and 13.5% of other adults).

Tablets aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Nine in 10 online retailers now have a mobile strategy in place, and 87 percent said they will use tablets to drive revenue and sales to their websites.  There’s no doubt tablets will be a standard part of the customer shopping experience in years to come.

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