The adoption rate of tablets by American consumers has been one of the fastest of any new product and is a disruptive technology having widespread implications for marketers. This trend has the power to alter the relationship most brands have with their customers and prospects.
According to new research from Pew, 33% of all U.S. adults own a tablet. This is almost twice as many people who owned a tablet just a year ago (18%). And up from zero three years ago when Apple first introduced the disruptive iPad. According to IDC, worldwide shipments of tablets grew 142% in Q1 2013, totaling 49.2 million units, surpassing the entire first half of 2012. And it‘s no longer just an Apple iPad game as Samsung, ASUS Nexus, Amazon and Microsoft all showed gains. Not surprisingly, this rapid adoption has fostered a decrease in PC sales. Tablet ownership should spike again this fall when the iOS7 powered new iPad rolls out along with competitive products from Samsung, Amazon, and Google.
More interesting than how many are being sold, however, is how they’re being used. The vast majority of these tablets are not being used as “mobile devices,” but rather as content-consumption machines for text, images, video, music and social media, and as ecommerce tools for buying lots of stuff from retailers.
So what does this mean for marketers?
Considering that the “brand-as-media-channel” revolution is in full swing and a CMO priority, content needs to be device-agnostic and flow naturally to all possible devices and form factors. Here are six areas for marketers to be considering when thinking about a Tablet strategy:
1. Segmented Usage
It’s important to consider the use cases of tablets as compared to PCs. While the PC is still the best device for creating content and working on complex problem solving (for now) the tablet is superior for the classic “lean back” content immersion experience. The clean and simple interface has contributed to the fast adaption. Almost anyone from a toddler to the elderly can pick it up and figure it out within minutes.
2. Content Design
Karen McGrane, the author of Content Strategy for Mobile, recently wrote on the Harvard Business Review blog about how it is time to shift away from a paper/page paradigm for digital content. Since the beginning of the web people have viewed it with the printed page in mind, hence the term “web page.” The first websites were offshoots of printed material so it was natural to post print-composed pages on the web. McGrane suggests that is time to move beyond this thinking, and it is hard to argue with her logic. She says:
Publishing content to a variety of devices and platforms is fundamentally different from print. This wave of new connected devices means it's time we accept that the web isn't just a glorified print document. The way we think about content needs to change.”
She suggests a new way to view content through the lens of the user experience.
The future of connected devices is content in "chunks," not pages. Smaller, discrete content objects can be dynamically targeted to specific platforms and assembled into new containers on the fly. Which content and how much content appears on a given screen or interface will be defined by a set of rules, informed by metadata. Content will break free of the page and ‘live’ in lots of different places.”
The tablet is just the first step, as we could be looking at wearable technology (Google Glasses, iWatch) very soon, and voice commands will enable content integration within cars.
According to the latest from Google, they plan to penalize sites that are not optimized for mobile viewing; and sites that utilize responsive design rank better than sites that have separate desktop and mobile sites. That stands to reason since responsive is a better experience for the user and should score better in search. Recently, an agency named Pure Oxygen Labs looked at the mobile SEO of the Fortune 100’s web sites and found that only 6% lived up to Google’s new requirements. Clearly, companies have a long way to go and planning now will ensure that you don’t fall off in organic search.
4. Rich Media
The rapid adoption of tablets means that you should be adding rich media to your content mix. The playback quality is very high and video has come to be expected by consumers. Video is the greatest area of growth for content marketing, and with good reason. The heart of effective content is storytelling and there is no better device to tell and show your story than video. Video is also viral and easily sharable across social platforms.
For today’s consumer, everything starts with a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo. The consumer journey is self-directed and involves an active evaluation of all the possible options as they create short lists of brands to consider. Much of this is going to happen at home during non-work hours. There is much evidence to suggest that much tablet usage happens at home, often at night when connected to Wi-Fi. If your site and content is not tablet friendly you will be left out of the conversations. On the other hand, if you provide a clean and efficient interface your chances for being part of the consumer’s journey are greatly enhanced.
The last part of the consumer journey is the purchase, and the tablet is becoming a favorite of consumers who buy online. The lean back nature of he tablet is more amenable to shopping than the lean in desktop and laptop. The ability to display product and integrate video and other personalization based on location makes it an ideal shopping tool. Some of the categories that thrive in a tablet commerce environment are clothes, music, toys, books and electronics. Also, major purchases like cars, homes and major appliances are studied and evaluated on this platform.
For marketers who have a content strategy, the time is now to adapt it to your tablet strategy. It is imperative that your content is properly optimized or you will find yourself left out of consumers’ conversations and buying decision-making processes. Consumers’ use of tablets will change the game when it comes to how they interact with brands from discovery to evaluation to purchase. Marketers need to examine every aspect of their customer’s journey and make sure optimal tablet usage is at the forefront of their strategy.
Title image courtesy of Peshkova (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: This wraps up our focus for July on the mobile digital experience. Read more here.