Tablets' Next Trick: Mobile Commerce

Tablets Are Perfectly Designed to Replace Catalogs. Are Marketers Ready?

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At $176 billion last year, e-commerce already represents 8% of US retail. What do you think tablets will do to that ?

Huh? Tablets affect e-commerce? Step back a moment, and let's take a look at some facts and projections, as described by Forrester analysts Sucharita Mulpuru and Sarah Rotman Epps in a piece they just published called "Why Tablet Commerce Will Soon Trump Mobile eCommerce."

  • Already, 9% of the people who shop online have a tablet.
  • Tablets are taking off -- Forrester projects that 82 million Americans will own one by 2015.
  • The average retailer we survey says that 21% of the mobile commerce on their sites comes from tablets already.
  • According to a survey conducted jointly by Forrester and Bizrate, 47% of the tablet owners have bought something on their tablets, and another 13% have shopped with the tablet, even if they haven't bought yet.
  • Half of the tablet owners shop more on their tablets than on their smartphones (and nearly all of them have smartphones).

This all adds up to a huge shift in e-commerce. Tablet owners use them in a more relaxed way than the way they use either PCs or phones -- the most common place to use a tablet is in the living room. And tablet apps can display retail content in a way that resembles a catalog (far more attractive, with a fun interface), not a Web site or a utilitarian smartphone app. E-commerce sites replaced catalog shopping, but they didn't replace catalogs -- tablets can do that .

What does this mean for marketers? First -- among the splinters that make up the ever-fragmented splinternet, tablets are going to be huge, not just for browsing but for shopping. The more you sell an impulse item, the more you need a big, sexy tablet app. Tablets have the right interface, the right use model, the right capabilities -- they can seduce like television, impress like print, and sell like the Web.

If you haven't shifted some of your digital budget to tablets yet, it's time to start paying attention.

Josh Bernoff is senior vice president, idea development at Forrester Research and the co-author of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business," a management book that teaches you how to transform your business by empowering employees to solve customer problems. He blogs at
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