Cyber Week 2014 – the holiday shopping period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – saw record-breaking online sales that were fueled by significant spikes in mobile. In fact, compared to 2013, mobile traffic increased 50 percent this year, mobile purchases increased 45 percent and mobile revenue increased 20 percent.
Historically, tablets have accounted for the majority of mobile sales and traffic. What’s perhaps most interesting, though, is that over the last year tablets have slowed in terms ofboth sales and traffic share. From Q3 2013 to Q4 2014, smartphone traffic share surpassed that of tablets for the first time – by a whopping 66 percent.
A key reason for this explosive growth is the proliferation of “phablets,” or mobile devices that are larger than smartphones but smaller than tablets. Phablet screen sizes measure between 5.3 and 5.7 inches. On the large end, they’re closer to the size of small tablets (approximately 7 inches) than they are to small smartphones (approximately 3.5 inches).
During the timeframe, phablet traffic grew from 3.1 million ecommerce sessions to 10.6 million – an increase of nearly 250 percent.
On top of these data points, Accenture reports that 48 percent of consumers who plan to buy smartphones will opt for phablets instead. This finding suggests that the traditionally high conversion rate of tablets might not float the performance of brands’ mobile commerce much longer.
A look at the numbers
Tablet conversion rates still reign supreme at 2.42 percent for Q3 2014. Although phablets do not bridge the gap between smartphones and tablets in this particular category, they do sit between the two devices when it comes to other ecommerce metrics, such as average order value (AOV). For instance, in Q3 2014, phablet AOV ($115.86) was closer to tablet AOV ($121.30) than smartphone AOV ($100.27).
Additionally, phablets outperformed smartphones in average page views and add-to-cart rates by 20 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. However, phablets mimicked smartphones in terms of shopping cart abandonment at nearly 83 percent, while tablets dropped to 71.75 percent – indicating that, for now, browsing is likely the top reason consumers are engaging with brands via smartphones and phablets.
Who owns a phablet?
According to Flurry, a mobile app advertising and analytics platform, phablet users over-index in five persona categories when compared to average smartphone users:
- Business travelers (1.5x)
- Business professionals (1.5x)
- Bookworms (2x)
- Entertainment enthusiasts (2.1x)
- Social influencers (2.5x)
This breakdown correlates with a study conducted by Opera Mediaworks, which found that phablet users spend 54 percent of their time on social networks (compared to 30 percent for regular smartphone users, and less than 20 percent for tablet users). Owners of super-sized smartphones also tend to use their devices the most between 9 a.m. and noon, but are more willing to engage with ads during evening hours (specifically between 8-10 p.m.).
Adding to the complexity of phablets is the fact that they are most popular in Asia, where larger screen sizes and stylus pens aid countries with script-based alphabets, and also signify a certain level of social status. In fact, Mixpanel reported that phablets have 29 percent and 31 percent of the Android smartphone market in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, respectively.
What does it all mean?
With smartphone screens growing, and with mobile wallet options such as Apple Pay gaining popularity, it comes as no surprise that consumers are growing more comfortable with buying – not just browsing – on their mobile devices.
Regardless of the device, when engaging consumers on mobile or traditional online channels, it’s critical for retailers to take advantage of all available data to ensure each experience is relevant and personalized to the individual. This could mean tailoring phablet and smartphone sites to offer experiences that are more conducive to browsing, rather than forcing consumers to purchase.
In the end, offering a personalized, relevant experience across all channels will contribute to much higher conversion rates overall.
Bruce Ernst is Vice President of product management at Monetate. He has more than 20 years of experience in applying strategic plans to immediate execution as well as communicating complex technology solutions in a simple and straightforward manner. Prior to joining Monetate, Bruce was head of Webstore Product Management at GSI Commerce (now part of eBay), a Monetate customer.