Mobile vs. Mobile: Tablets Outpace Smartphones as the Smart Choice

I finally caught up with “Breaking Bad” and am now ready to watch the final season. Although I’ve got a flat-screen TV, I’ve watched all four seasons of the show on my tablet even though there were times when my wife and I had to lean in to hear a particularly quiet scene. So while the show is beautifully shot, for a variety of convenience factors, I opted for the suboptimal viewing experience of a tablet.

Although I have a TV, a computer, a tablet, and a smartphone, the way I use them is very different. My TV is more about family. My computer is for work, unless I’m at work. My tablet, when I can find it and pull it away from my kids, is for kicking back around the house and enjoying some “me” time. My smartphone is with me almost all the time, and, as I like to say, “it completes me.”

Right now, the way we think about using these different platforms for advertising breaks down into three overly simplified categories: TV, PC, and mobile. But due to the size and importance of mobile, that category is necessarily splintering in two: tablet and smartphone. As people increasingly use these mobile devices in different ways, the way we employ “mobile” advertising in campaigns needs to shift to a more device-specific approach.

It’s been undeniable for some time now the importance of mobile in people’s lives. Mobile will out-ship PCs worldwide by a margin of five to one by 2017. But even over the last few years, with the number of smartphones vastly outnumbering tablets, ad requests from tablets have jumped from less than 10 percent in 2011 to a whopping 30 percent in 2013.

As PCs decrease in their share of the digital advertising pie, we need to be more precise in our analyses – researchers have traditionally analyzed brand health digital metrics between desktop and mobile, but, increasingly, the key difference to watch is between smartphone and tablet.

Plowing through four seasons of Breaking Bad was a lot of screen time, and, with tablet in hand, it’s time I’d also spend looking at all sorts of products I can’t live without. That’s a very different experience than either on TV or phone.

Forrester Research found that “tablet owners were far more likely to travel the entire length of the purchase process on their device, while mobile phones were more focused on locating a store.” So while TV still reigns supreme for “awareness” marketing, the tablet can also deliver on rich media experiences.

But while TV is the ultimate lean-back experience, the tablet seems to find the right balance between consumption and consideration. You can’t click on a TV ad, but between a tablet and a smartphone, the jury is in – ad clicks are far superior on a tablet. Adfonic found that branding campaigns have a 250 percent higher click-through rate on tablets compared to smartphones. And when folks are ready to buy, eMarketer predicts that this year 71 million tablet owners will make purchases as compared with 53 million smartphone owners, despite fewer tablets in the marketplace. It also makes sense that tablets are associated with a higher average order value (AOV) – the marketing tech company Kenshoo reported an AOV of $106 for tablet purchases vs. $97 for smartphones, which is likely because tablets can help take a customer through the entire journey from video ads to product research to conversion. All this, from the comfort of a La-Z-Boy recliner.

Smartphones tend to be used in different ways than tablets. Despite a heavy reliance on Amazon Prime, I still make all sorts of purchases in the real world, from going to a bakery to buying a car. The phone helps me get where I need to go and once I’m there, can offer me more product information than a salesperson typically can. I would, therefore, welcome ads that would help me find a better deal in the retail experience and ease my mind that I’m making the right choice in-store.

So what does this all mean for digital marketers?

Let’s start with the obvious – there is no monolithic mobile advertising anymore. The best use of mobile advertising is for marketers to understand more about the customers’ behavior than merely if they’re on a mobile device or not, and to use that knowledge to deliver a more useful and appropriate message.

Let’s first ask this simple question: Is someone viewing an ad on a tablet or smartphone, and then, more to the point, are they inside the house or out? Just understanding these few variables should change the type of message we offer. If we can reach folks at home on a tablet, we will tend to be in the “upper funnel” and can offer more rich media-branded experiences. If someone’s on a smartphone, and on the go, they’re more likely to respond to a “lower funnel” offering with greater receptivity based on location.

And how about this question: what time of day will folks be served our ad? Dayparting in mobile is just as relevant as in other mediums, but unlike TV, where the time of day relates to who is watching, in the case of mobile it pertains to what the audience is actually doing – kicking back or out and about. Again, the type of message we would offer would vary.

So what have we learned? It’s important to differentiate between mobile and mobile. Upper funnel brand dollars are better spent on a tablet and you can continue to follow the customer all the way down the funnel on that same device. The smartphone is generally better suited to lower funnel offers that can be more precisely targeted. But, ultimately, we can serve more relevant ads if we take the time to understand what, when, and where consumers are. Is it more expensive to create a series of different ads depending on our customers’ distinct mobile behaviors? Of course. But, ultimately, if we spend more on creating the right kinds of messages to map to our customers’ differentiated consumption habits, we’ll be able to reach fewer people but with a more effective, tailored message that will keep media budgets from breaking bad.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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