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GUEST COMMENT iPad sales superior to websites

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by Richard Stephenson

Since its launch in April 2010, Apple’s iPad has sold 67 million units worldwide. Nearly three million of these have been sold to the UK market according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. That represents 73% of the UK tablet market. Apple’s ability to create brand new markets out of thin air (MP3 players, smartphones and now tablets) is unparalleled and, within 24 months, tablet sales now match laptops in the UK – a phenomenal 214% year-on-year growth.

But what does it mean for retailers? One of the best commercial opportunities of recent times. And the reason is not what you might think. Yes, the take-up of the iPad represents a commercial opportunity in its own right. But, here’s the thing, basket sales at checkout are 50% higher than a retailer’s own comparable website. Let me repeat: 50% higher.

How do I know this? We create iPad apps for many of the world’s leading retailers and know at first-hand how they are performing. We can’t hide the higher average order value, conversion rates and low abandonment rates. All the metrics are dazzling.

At first we thought the average basket size increase might be temporary. But after a thorough analysis, all our retail clients had the same story to tell – iPad order values were much, much higher than their own website sales. We looked into the usage and payment patterns and we now think we know the reason why.

Firstly, iPad owners tend to have higher disposable income. Note that I’m not saying ‘young’ professionals, but affluent professionals, full stop – in fact, NPD Group found that US iPad owners tend to be older with 40% having a household income of $100,000 or more. It’s safe to assume that the UK shares a similar demographic, as one trip on the Sevenoaks to London Bridge commute will attest – it’s full of middle-aged professionals tapping iPads.

Secondly, the usage patterns of iPads differ markedly from those of laptops and PC’s. Our stats show that iPad owners tend to use the devices early morning and late evening, as well as on weekend mornings. That strongly suggests the iPad is used heavily in recreation and relaxation periods, not just for practical purposes (email, social media, Skype etc). This preference for using the device as a leisure tool means that people use iPads at a moment when they can make decisions to purchase in a relaxed and comfortable frame of mind – less distractions equals higher conversions.

Thirdly, the user experience of the iPad is first class. The latest iPad, launched earlier in 2012, has a significantly improved retina display with four times more pixels than the previous version and a million more pixels than even a HDTV. The result is an unparalleled visual experience that allows users to almost touch the products they’re browsing through. Combined with the slick navigation and sheer usability of the iPad, the shopping experience is far more intimate and personal than sitting at a desk with a laptop or PC. In short, the iPad is a razor clear ‘shop window’ that users enjoy purchasing from.

We have also found that the average online iPad catalogue app sees between 35% and 65% of all visitors voluntarily choose to register their personal details for future marketing purposes. The trusted brands get nearest to the 65%. This efficient email and data harvesting allows retailers to publish flyers with special offers and deals at the optimum time – sofa deals on a rainy Sunday morning, summery blouses on a hot July day, wine deals on a Friday night. Get the timing right and sales fly. Put them on the iPad and they soar.

iPad digital catalogue sales have also been assisted by Apple creating a stand-alone category just for digital catalogues. Catalogue apps used to be lost within Apple’s Lifestyle category and downloads were limited by a lack of awareness. However, with the launch of Apple’s Catalog category, catalogue apps are now much more visible. This change has been reflected in a huge rise in the number of daily catalogue downloads, with daily downloads rising by an average of 330%. Again, this has created a spike in iPad sales.

In conclusion, the iPad represents a huge commercial opportunity that many retailers are still not tapping into – even if they are aware, they often perceive it as ‘yet another’ retail channel. It’s not. It’s a channel that is growing at an exponential rate with affluent professionals purchasing at levels never before seen on a digital device.

Richard Stephenson is chief executive of YUDU Media.

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