How does the New Mobile and Tablet Interface Affect Your Business’s Online Sales?

If you haven’t been keeping up with cell phone credit card processing and current merchant account news relative to mobile and tablet shopping, it’s all good. Even before the December rush of tablet giving, the Wall Street Journal published findings in September 2011 indicating that consumers who browse web stores via their tablets are more likely to make a purchase than other online shoppers.

Global shipments of tablets jumped to 26.8 million units in 4Q 2011, which means for the year, 66.9 million tablets were sold. That’s an increase of 260 percent over 2010. Still, tablets do represent a fairly small percentage of online browsing, but it’s not their numbers that are putting tablets in the headlines of merchant account news circles, but rather the conversion rate they return when used for web shopping.

Tablet browsing converts to an online purchase at a rate of 4 to 5 percent compared to just 3 percent for traditional PCs, according to a study conducted by Forrester Research. Retailers also say that in some cases, tablet shoppers place orders 10 to 20 percent larger than their keyboard-based counterparts.

What does this mean for the current state of online shopping venues? Thankfully, most websites don’t need to be rebuilt to be viewed properly on a tablet screen. In fact, consumers say they prefer to visit sites on their tablets in vertical mode, which shows the overall page thus reducing or eliminating the need to scroll. If, however, your website includes Adobe Flash, it will not display on the iPad, which is still the industry-leading tablet. That’s problematic if you’re using Flash to highlight a product, and definitely a strategy you should reconsider.

More and more vendor sites are adding mobile versions for the convenience of consumers using smartphones, however. The address on these sites is normally the regular URL prefaced by an “m,” for instance Since this convention is becoming an industry standard, it’s recommended to stick with that naming scheme if you opt for a mobile version of your site. Typically these interfaces simplify the layout to an easily accessible menu that takes the visitor directly to key products and services, with no need to scroll or “pinch” to enlarge the screen for easier reading.

With the recent introduction of an updated version of the iPad and the popularity of the Kindle Fire, which sold 3 million units in three weeks before Christmas, there’s every indication the tablet market will only continue to grow, which would seem to be good news for merchants in terms of sales. Design changes may well follow, with wider spacing and larger buttons being the most obvious modifications, but for the moment, tablet shoppers seem content enough with their online world to spend more money and to buy more frequently than other computer users.