Tablets, as we’ve written about before, are ideal shopping devices, generating outsized sales despite their smaller reach. But now, it appears that tablets have outpaced smartphones in the sheer amount of traffic they deliver to commerce sites, according to online marketing technology company Monetate.
Monetate, which analyzes more than 100 million online shopping experiences, said that in the first quarter of 2012, tablet traffic to commerce sites hit 6.52 percent, overtaking smartphones (5.35 percent) for the first time. In the last year, tablets’ traffic increased 348 percent while smartphones visits grew by 117 percent over the same period. Almost all of the traffic (95 percent) was from the iPad (s aapl), said Monetate.
The rise of tablets is chipping away at the PC, which saw its share of traffic to commerce sites drop to 88 percent, a steep four percent drop in just one quarter. At this pace, PC traffic should fall below 75 percent within the next year.
Monetate’s numbers are more aggressive than previous figures from Adobe (s adbe), which reported last month that tablet traffic worldwide will exceed smartphones by early 2013 and represent 10 percent of website traffic in early 2014. The difference may be Monetate’s focus on commerce web sites, which may get more tablet traffic than other sites.
Kurt Heinemann, the CMO of Monetate, said tablet traffic should hit double digits by this year’s holiday season. He said tablets offer the best of both worlds, offering more of the portability of a smartphone but with a bigger UI that encourages shopping and browsing.
“Tablets are at an inflection point, where its coming into its own as a primary Internet portal,” Heinemann said. “It’s only going to grow at this point.”
Monetate, which serves more than 100 top commerce sites, said smartphone traffic peaked at 7.1 percent during Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year. Heinemann said the smartphone will continue to drive traffic but it will be more as a reference device, letting people do research in stores or see products that they click through from emails.
Tablets are in many ways performing like PCs when it comes to commerce. Monetate found that tablets converted visits into purchases at a rate of 3.23 percent, not far behind the PC at 3.51 percent and well ahead of smartphones at 1.39 percent. Tablet users view an average of 11.07 pages per session, compared to 12.05 page views for PC users and 7.18 pages for smartphone users. And tablet owners add items to their cart at a rate of 9.66 percent, compared to 10.2 percent for PC users and 4.25 perent for smartphone users.
Heinemann thinks that tablets can do even better than PCs if websites start tailoring their experiences for them. Right now, most are still oriented toward a desktop experience. But there is still more optimization that can be done for tablets, including better touch navigation and bigger links.
We’re still early in the tablet boom and the couch commerce era is just getting underway. There’s still more than retailers can do to optimize for tablet visitors. That might be just better touch and swipe navigation or it may mean some consider tablet-specific sites. But the tide is clearly turning toward tablets and that’s only going to continue.
Images courtesy of iStockphoto