Will the New iPad Be a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

Industry experts agree that the new iPad will change how consumers shop -- potentially affecting your ecommerce business if you're not ready for an influx tablet-wielding shoppers by this holiday season.

At this stage of the game, online retailers should be aware of how important mobile commerce is to stay competitive. If you haven't made the transition to a mobile ecommerce site, it's a must-do and something you need to move on, well before the holiday 2012 shopping frenzy.

In the midst of more than 82.2 million people in the U.S. using smartphones and Web shop owners catering to those mobile shoppers, online retailers have another trend to cash in on: the tablet; more specifically the release of Apple's "iPad 3." The new iPad (yes, that's the official name) is the third-generation of Apple iPad tablets and it's much faster, offers Wi-Fi plus 4G connects, and the graphics quality and resolution of the device has been boosted, along with other features.

Why Retailers Need to Pay Attention to the New iPad

While there are many types of tablets on the market today, the reality is that people want to own iPads -- it's the new cool. The release of the new iPad (and the discounted iPad 2) will boost Apple's tablet market share. According to this eWeek report, Apple held a 57 percent share during the fourth quarter of 2011, which is expected to rise to 61 percent for the full year 2012.

Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of ecommerce software provider Ability Commerce, says that the iPad is changing the face of ecommerce. She says the release of the new iPad is going to do a couple things -- most importantly it will put a device that is easy to shop from in more hands.

"The iPad 3, most importantly, will lower the price of the iPad 2, which puts the iPad 2 in that many more hands," she explained. "The trickle down is that people who love their iPad 2 will run out and buy the new iPad and give their old iPad 2 to their brother, sister or kids -- so it keeps expanding."

The important take-away for online retailers is not just in knowing that consumers like to shop on the iPad -- but also that online retailers see mobile devices drive traffic on ecommerce websites and that shoppers using iPads convert to the purchase funnel more often. The iPad and tablet shoppers also spend more money when they make an online purchase, compared to shoppers on other types of devices.

According to a survey conducted by PriceGrabber, an overwhelming 77 percent of consumers who own a tablet indicated they use either a tablet or a smartphone to shop. PriceGrabber also expects the new iPad to have an even bigger impact on the way people shop.

"Out of the 22 percent of respondents in our survey that own tablet computers, more than half currently own an iPad, and 42 percent of these iPad owners plan to purchase the new iPad when it comes out," said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. "Given this high demand, we won’t be surprised to see consumers developing an even stronger loyalty to the iPad brand and, consequently, increasing the extent to which they incorporate the iPad's features into their daily habits, including comparison shopping."

Is the New Apple iPad a Game-Changer for Online Retailers?

The release of the new iPad might play a part in changing the face of ecommerce, but Buzzeo predicts that the big game-changer is going to be the continuing evolution of the iPad: what you can attach to the device and how people use an iPad in their home.

"As an e-tailer I love watching my nephew's wife sitting on the couch with the kids in the evening, playing games and shopping; I think this is changing the face of ecommerce," she said.

People use iPads often and the device and the Web becomes a part of daily life.  Seeing products on television commercials and in magazines can now result in an impulse buy because an add-to-cart button is only seconds away with a few clicks and touches on an iPad, which is typically within an arm's reach of the consumer in their home.

Buzzeo doesn't see the new iPad device as the big event for e-tailors, but she does think the accessories for the new device, like the Bluetooth keyboard, will be. These accessories will let consumers use the tablet more like a computer. You put the device in a foldable case with a clickable Bluetooth keyboard, and you have an even more functional device that's comfortable to use and easy to shop from -- any time, any place.

Retailers Need to Offer an Excellent iPad Shopping Experience

Apple's official release date for the new iPad ("iPad3") -- March 16, 2012 -- is not going to change your ecommerce business overnight, but online retailers need to be ready. As more people buy the new iPad or acquire an iPad 2 at lower prices, you'll experience the trickle-down affect of more iPad shoppers visiting your site.

First, Buzzeo recommends you make sure that your catalog is available in an iPad translation (e.g. an iPad app).

"People who really do like 'sitting on the couch flipping through a catalog' can still have that experience. They can just click a button while using the app and order what they see in the catalog. You also need to have a pick-it-up-at-the-store app, especially if you don't have ship-to-the-home capability," she said.

Another important thing to note is that smartphones give shoppers a "buying experience," but an iPad provides a "shopping experience." If you want customers to stay on your site to browse and shop, you have to provide an excellent user experience for the growing number of iPad users.  Your site has to look great on an iPad.

"It's growing so quickly. A year ago the idea of having a catalog that you could flip or swipe and that looked good on an IPad was probably something you should have been thinking about," said Buzzeo . "Now you have to have it."

Lastly, we're only seven months shy of a new holiday shopping season.  If you're not ready for mobile shoppers -- and specifically the iPad shoppers who convert more often and spend more money -- you'll miss out. If you're not optimized for iPad shoppers, put your plan in action now, don't wait and try to work it in later.

"Ecommerce retailers who don't have their site looking like a billion dollars on an iPad by the holiday season aren't going to have a next season," said Buzzeo. "And if you're not working on it now, you won't have it for the season."

Ecommerce-Guide Mobile Commerce Articles

Looking to get a better handle on integrating mobile commerce into your small business ecommerce marketing plan? Try these mobile commerce tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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