Is Shopping the iPad's Killer App?

My wife and I are like a lot of couples: She loves to shop. I don’t. I’m just not a shopping guy. At least, I didn’t used to be. But this come-find-me-at-the-Apple-store-when-you’re-done guy has a secret: I love shopping on my iPad. This is not something that I expected. I bought my iPad because I was eager to get my hands on the device and figure out how it might change the way people work, communicate, and interact with computers. Honest. After all of this time using the tablet I’m now sure of one thing: The iPad will change the way people shop. From Gap to Gucci, Amazon to eBay, retailers are re-imagining their digital interactions and offering specialized apps optimized for the tablets’ sharp visuals and multi-touch interfaces. When well-designed, these “in-app” experiences engage customers in ways that are unparalleled by anything in the browser-based retail world. Plus, the apps often offer the seductive simplicity of frictionless buying. By setting up my apps to connect to my Apple account, I never have to pause to enter my credit card information (or second guess a purchase decision). I click, and items appear at my door.
I hate shopping. I love shopping on my iPad.
As a result, I’ve found that I’m not only spending more time shopping, I’m also spending more money. My impulse purchase threshold has been creeping up. I used to think nothing about dropping a dollar in iTunes. Now I'll spend $5 in the app store or $12 at Amazon. My anecdotal experience may sound alarms in personal finance blogs, but from a retailer 's perspective, it’s all good and getting better. Tablets are engaging because they change the way we design, giving users a different experience than the user interfaces for the desktop and mobile phones. They are more convenient than laptops when you have a few minutes to fill while riding in a taxi or waiting in the airport. Yes, you can do the same things (read, play, chat, shop) with a smart phone, but tablets offer a more impressive display of content, which maximize the enticement of online activity with a minimum trade-off in portability. As tablet technology improves and more competition joins the tablet race, their impact on consumer behavior will only grow. The enhancements to Apple’s iPad 2—including built-in cameras—could make the devices feel even more essential for shopping. With a camera, shoppers can easily build a wish list of items they see in stores and share their desires with friends through social media and apps like Evernote. I’m still struggling with the thought of someone pointing their tablet camera at a book in a store and interacting with it as they would with a smart phone, but stranger things have happened.
If you're a retailer, it’s all good and getting better.
I think that as consumer spending rebounds, tablet devices will fuel sharp growth in the mobile segment of online spending and perhaps the growth of online shopping itself. Online commerce now accounts for about 5% of U.S. retail commerce and the segment is growing. Morgan Stanley research forecasts a much faster rate of growth for mobile e-commerce, a segment that could chip away at brick-and-mortar sales as well as the older browser-based online shopping. That means two things:
1. For retailers, the rules of online engagement with customers have changed. A mere web presence is no longer enough. Your online strategy must take into account the unique opportunities for reaching your customers through the mobile web and tablet devices like the iPad. 2. My iPad will remain hidden from my wife. I figure if tablets can entice a committed non-shopper like me to part with more cash than I probably should, then there’s no way I should let my shopping enthusiast wife get her hands on the thing.
On the other hand, the iPad could make shopping yet another thing my wife and I enjoy together. Maybe it’s time my iPad emerges from its undisclosed location. But I’m definitely hiding my credit card statement. [Top image: A rendering of a concept for iPad-augmented TV viewing, by Notion]

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