I was speaking recently with Geoff Copps, research and analysis manager here at The Telegraph Media Group in London.
Over the last year at the Telegraph, we’ve run numerous focus groups with consumers coming to grips with their new tablets. What we’ve seen is a steady evolution in usage from clueless enthusiasm to serious adeptness. Two things remain clear: The industry (mainly Apple, of course) has done a marvellous job of sustaining excitement, but the tablet market still has far to go.
Recent research with YouGov* has given us a clearer view of the tablet market here which applies the world over. As well as revealing current patterns of behaviour, it has also offered a glimpse of the future.
From this perspective, one sub-set of users has been especially important. There exists a proportion of iPad owners — consistently around 20% — whose usage is more advanced than the norm. Typically these are owners of high-memory 3G models living in multiple-tablet households. This “Future 20” has been instrumental in shaping Geoff’s view of what will be eight key future trends for the tablet. I thought I would share them with you, as I believe they hit home exactly where the market is at currently. See if you agree.
1. Out-of-home tablet usage will suddenly take off in 2012.
It has become something of a truism that the tablet’s natural habitat is in the home, as recent studies from Google and others confirm.
However, our research shows that there remains a disjunction between tablet usage and reason for purchase. When asked why they bought an iPad, 71% cited the iPad’s “portability.” This portability motive has yet to fully express itself. At present, owners are understandably protective of their devices. But there will come a tipping point when utility outweighs any lingering concerns.
Expect this moment to come around Christmas this year, and in the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. When it does, tablet usage will surge in the busy commuter trains and coffee shops of the United Kingdom. We saw it with the smartphone, but the creative advertising possibilities are even greater for the tablet.
2. The tablet will become a potent tool for high-ticket purchases.
The tablet is still to fully realise its potential as a tool for online shopping. Some 39% of iPad shoppers use the device for researching and buying high-ticket items, such as travel. Yet the remaining 61% use the iPad only to research, reverting to their main laptop or desktop computer to complete the purchase. By contrast, the purchase of low-ticket items is widespread.
Geoff argues that the issue here is merely one of confidence, of getting used to a new tool. As a platform with an unsurpassed ability to display products and services, the tablet has huge latent potential. In 2012, expect to see tablets in the hands of travel agents, real estate agents, car salespeople and keen shoppers everywhere.
3. The typical tablet users of the future will be in their 50s.
Tablets are not a youth phenomenon. YouGov’s latest TabletTrack study reveals that the average age of an iPad owner is 45, with just 7% under the age of 25. There are as many aged 55 or older as there are under the age of 35. There always has been, and always will be.
Once we get past our obsession with youth, the reasons behind this trend are obvious. Older consumers are more affluent, more time-rich, less miserly with their media spending, and increasingly adventurous when it comes to new technology. They are also less skittish in their attention, making the immersive reading experience of the tablet more suited to them than to younger consumers.
It is precisely these factors that will make the tablet audience an older one for the foreseeable future, as mid-adopters enter the market and grasp the device’s potential.
4. Publisher brand loyalties will become more clearly demarcated.
In the “noughties,” the SEO-driven growth of Web sites atomised online audiences, with many readers picking-and-choosing between publishers.
The tablet is reversing this process. Individual publisher brands are newly entrenching themselves in peoples’ lives. iPad users are now spending longer and longer with their favoured publishers’ content. Since getting an iPad, 37% have increased the total time they spend reading news content from their preferred newspaper publishers.
5. Video will become essential, not just nice to have.
As countless reviewers and consumers have pointed out, the tablet is made for video content; 49% of iPad owners describe the viewing experience as “more immersive” than their laptop or desktop.
Two factors will drive this trend towards the greater integration of video on tablet devices. First, improvements to the digital infrastructure will make video streaming and downloading less onerous, especially out-of-home. Secondly, there are signs that the big media owners are looking afresh at the potential of video. Publishers are integrating more and more video content into their apps. Yahoo has been investing heavily in video content across key verticals in order to compete with its big rivals in the display market. Recent reports suggest Google is set to invest in professionally produced original programming for YouTube.
6. The tablet will complement, not replace, other platforms.
The tablet is and always will be primarily a complementary technology rather than a replacement technology. Fears of the demise of other platforms in the wake of the iPad are unfounded.
One reason for this is that tablets can increase media time rather than cannibalising it. Print media is an interesting case here, yet again demonstrating its remarkable resilience. The YouGov study shows that for iPad owners, iPad and print are now the twin access points for newspaper publishers’ content. While 38% of iPad owners say that their main method of accessing their preferred newspaper publishers is via the iPad, print comes in a close second at 32%, with laptop or desktop third at 21%.
Moreover, research from eDigital demonstrates how print retains its traditional strength as a “high-concentration” medium resistant to “multi-tasking.” Just 6% of multi-taskers partner their iPad with their newspaper — 14 times fewer than with TV (85%) and three times fewer than with a laptop or desktop (19%). Print and iPad formats complement each other by snugly occupying different reading occasions.
7. “Sharing” will switch from a single- to multiple-device phenomenon.
At present, 50% of iPad owners share the device with other family members. As you might expect, sharing with a partner is most widespread, but child “pester power” — a potent force beloved of supermarket retailers — is also a factor.
Yet these forms of behaviour look to be relatively short-term trends. The iPad is designed for single-person usage: a key feature is the ability to customise it with your own apps (and credit card information). Furthermore, at present 16% of iPad owners live in multiple-tablet households. With the increasing proliferation of tablets, this figure will exponentially increase.
Geoff and I believe that in the future, “sharing” will be a matter of device-to-device interactions, rather than huddling around a single screen. Expect such functionality to improve rapidly, as sharing becomes a battleground between tablet manufacturers in much the same way as it has amongst manufacturers of game consoles.
8. The smartphone will at last find its true role.
Media commentators spent the late noughties excitedly predicting the total dominance of the smartphone in consumers’ lives. Let’s be honest: it has never quite happened.
The arrival of the tablet has put this state of affairs into context. The smartphone’s shortfall was in part because it was being asked to fill a role that was beyond it — nothing short of satisfying all portable online usage. Tablets have now stepped in to satisfy the need for lean-back, considered, and curated portable content. With the advent of the tablet, smartphone app developers can at last focus on what the platform is good at and was always destined to be: a convenient, dynamic and user-friendly tool for minute-by-minute information and decision-making. At the same time, advancements in the tablet market will spark further innovation in the smartphone market with the two platforms in symbiosis generating richer content than ever before.
This is also good news for advertisers. A more sharply differentiated product means more differentiated, clearly articulated opportunities for reaching audiences as they go about their everyday lives.
*Unless otherwise stated, all figures in this article are taken from a YouGov/Telegraph study of 408 iPad owners in the United Kingdom. Online fieldwork was conducted between 18th and 21st February 2011. The data was not weighted. Additional research studies referenced here are YouGov’s ongoing TabletTrack survey (November 2010 and February 2011) and an eDigital/Telegraph study of 708 Telegraph iPad app users in the United Kingdom (March 2011).