Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How the Tablet is changing the online Shopping Experience

I’m often told by folks that once they buy a tablet, they give up their laptop. While less than 4.5% of all computers shipped in 2010 were in the tablet format, Morgan Stanley predict that number to increase to 20% in the next two years.

This is great news for retailers who are jumping on iPad and other tablets to create new retail interfaces that provide an enhanced shopping experience compared to your typical e-commerce site. These new apps are more lifestyle oriented, and offer a curated selection of the top featured items or selections around certain themes – just like a magazine or catalogue.

With a quick swipe of the finger, it’s easy to drag an image and drop it into a cart. Image and video quality are often superior to a phone or computer. These apps are much more about presentation and visual merchandising and the “less is more” approach means that the consumer is not overwhelmed with selection.

At Net-a-Porter, the online designer fashion retailer, currently, about 15 percent of their shoppers buy from the iPad app.

“The iPad app is really our magazine app,” said Alison Loehnis, vice president of sales and marketing for Net-a-Porter. Its app was introduced last summer, and has been downloaded 120,000 times.

“Our site was founded on the desire to create a fashion magazine that you can shop from, and this whole notion of literally being able to move things around on the page and slide things into a shopping basket and touch things with your fingers the way you would do in a magazine is really a dream come true,” Ms. Loehnis said.

At Gilt, the innovative flash sale site featured here, the iPad app “truly is sort of an entertainment source during the member’s downtime” said the company’s chief product officer, Stefan Pepe.

Gilt’s sales start at a specific time with a limited amount of merchandise, and so its Web site and iPhone app are geared toward quick shopping. Although Gilt members shop flash sales on the iPad app, they can also use it to look at clothes as they would in a fashion magazine — a different experience. Shoppers can zoom in on the images closely enough to see the stitching on a shoulder seam or the lace fringe on the bottom of a skirt, for instance, and can drag items to their shopping carts without leaving the page.

TheFind does the comparison shopping for you online. Once you select a style/colour, it gives you alternative. In TheFind’s tablet app, a shopper can see the typical catalog-style shots, like of a living room filled with Crate & Barrel furniture, or can view individual photographs and descriptions of each item in the shot, like the pillows or lamps.

Mr. Kumar of TheFind said the app was a reaction, in part, to the overwhelming shopping options available online. “If I said, let’s show you every possible shoe on the planet, you’d be exhausted,” Mr. Kumar said. “A lot of these retailers use the catalog to tell people what they have: its things they’ve curated and picked.”

Share your favorite tablet apps or join me in tablet envy :)

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