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Tablet - Big Mobile or Small Desktop Device?

  |  June 25, 2012   |  Comments

Tablets are considered "mobile" devices, but that's only a starting point for marketers.

The explosion of tablets provides an opportunity for marketers to target a whole new segment of users. According to a new study conducted by Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Frank N. Magid Associates, tablet adoption has reached 31 percent and is projected to be 47 percent by 2013. Today that represents a user base of a little over 71 million users - impressive growth considering only 12 percent of Internet users owned tablets in 2011.

Apple's iPad and iOS still dominate the market with 52 percent of tablets. But Android has chipped away at its leads, capturing 42 percent market share powered by the rapid sales of Kindle Fire, according to the OPA study.

As for local, tablet users have a higher frequency of online local business searches than both desktops and mobile phones. The statistics are noteworthy: 55 percent of tablet users conduct local searches at least once a week and 16 percent of tablet users conduct local searches on a daily basis, versus 9 percent for PC/laptop users and 8 percent for mobile phone users, according to the 2012 15miles/Localeze Local search study conducted by comScore.

What makes tablet users even more desirable is the fact that they are more likely to purchase after searching for a local business and tend to spend more per purchase than PC/laptop and mobile phone users.


The desirability of tablet users ups the ante for online marketers in all industries. A couple of months ago I explored mobile website design best practices in "Mobile Website or Please Read the Fine Print?" Mobile website design requires a different approach than sites for laptops and PCs for a number of reasons. But should tablets be treated like a desktop or a mobile device in terms of web/content development? While tablets have been classified as "mobile" devices, an understanding of how consumers use tablets is required to create a user experience that is beneficial for considering content, functionality, and layout. The marketing challenges of balancing content, access, and ease of use are many, but simply applying a mobile perspective is a mistake.

Mobile Usage Habits

Unlike mobile users that tend to engage with search on their device due to the "on-the-go" necessity for local information, tablet users tend to require more complete information. A total of 38 percent of tablet users consistently report a higher need for local information versus 22 percent of mobile phone users.



Similar to mobile phones, most users "tap" instead of clicking to navigate web content via touch screen input. It is important that navigation buttons and link target areas are large enough that a user can tap to their information needs with their fingers. Avoid fat finger syndrome by not positioning them too closely to each other.


Directional information including driving directions and basic business information (hours, maps, etc.) scores high as content that users find helpful. Because tablet users are more apt to contact local businesses online and make purchases online, ensure your shopping cart or purchase process is optimized for the tablet environment.



A picture is worth a thousand words, video a million, Flash zero. A story told through visuals is more persuasive than mere words, and tablet displays tend to render visuals even better than most high-resolution computer monitors. Use dynamic visuals of products or location shots to help tell your company's story.


With Apple's iPad having the largest installed base of tablets, it is important to consider the Flash limitation of these devices. HTML5, with its embedded video functionality, is a far better option.


To app or not to app...that's the question.

One of the most frequent questions we receive about tablets and mobile devices is, "Should I build an app or deliver my content via mobile/tablet browser?" Our research indicates that users are now equally divided on app versus browser usage. The answer depends on whether there is any vital functionality that requires an application that cannot be delivered via the browser. Designing and building device/OS-specific applications can be costly and unless the user will interact with your content at least once a week, I would suggest the browser approach over an app.

Content Versus Access

When it comes to the need for balancing the volume of content with ease of access and use, tablets sit somewhere between PCs, laptops, and mobile devices. As device penetration continues to grow rapidly, marketers who tailor their users' experience to the unique requirements of tablet users will be rewarded with increased purchases and order volume based on the desirable demographics and purchase propensity of this user group. Finally, because of the heavy use of local search by this segment, fine-tuning your local campaigns is vital.


Gregg Stewart

Gregg Stewart is founder and president of 15miles, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy, specializing in digital solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 15miles supports businesses and agencies of all sizes. With more than 20 years of experience, Stewart applies his successful tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital and mobile solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his ClickZ columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive. In 2013, Stewart was recognized with the ClickZ Hall of Fame award.

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