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Tablet sales give rise to 'couch commerce'

The rapid growth in tablet sales has given rise to a cousin of ecommerce called couch commerce. Keeping a tablet at one's fingertips while watching TV, and shopping from the comfort of one's sofa is what it's all about.

While smartphones are more likely to be used to make purchases with debit, credit or prepaid ACH cards when consumers are on the go, tablets are increasingly used for the same purpose at home.

"Tablet usage is exploding, with adoption rates outpacing mobile," Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, told Mobile Commerce Daily. "Tablet users in the United States are expected to expand at a compounded annual rate of 51 percent from 2010 to 2015."

In the last year alone, Kerr said, tablet visits to websites had grown an estimated 300 percent.

It comes down to how consumers perceive their mobile devices. Using a laptop reminds people too much of working at an office, while smartphones are the most personal of hand-held devices. Tablets combine the best of both worlds – they are larger and more interactive than phones, yet lighter and more compact than laptops.

Commerce will shift
The shift hasn't been lost on marketers. Campbell predicts that television ads are bound to reflect the change in buying habits by making a simple, tablet-friendly connection so consumers can easily find advertised products via these devices. Already, many retail websites are tablet-optimized to take advantage of the high-resolution imagery, large tappable links and both portrait and landscape views.

In addition to about 200 million tablets that have been produced since 2009, ABI Research has estimated that another 145 million will ship this year and one billion will ship in the next five years.

As with any new technology, tablets sold initially to affluent consumers, but as they become more mainstream, they will also be less costly and more accessible. Branding Brand chief information officer Joey Rahimi said he expects traffic on smartphones and tablets to pass activity on desktops by late 2013.

And the experts say activity from tablets won't be limited to actual purchases, but will include price comparisons, seeking quotes from sellers and other retailer-consumer interaction that may eventually lead to sales.

"As more and more consumers acquire smartphones and tablets, they will expect to interact with brands as they have traditionally done with the desktop experiences," said Drew Wilson, senior director at Acquity Group.