20 November 2013 | Team Tamar

mChristmas – Native browser vs App, how do you choose?

There’s little argument that this is going to be a mobile Christmas for etailers. We’re undoubtedly at an inflexion point for ecommerce with handheld devices rapidly taking over from PC-based browser access. And whilst smartphone growth continues, it is tablet usage that is leading the way. More than half of all tablets sold in the UK last year were bought in the final quarter of the year.

(Read our last post on the subject: mChristmas – how retailers can make the most of mobile and take a look at our full infographic here: We’re dreaming of an mChristmas…)

This year, cheaper tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Tesco Hudl are responsible for driving even stronger growth. More than 8 million tablets are expected to be sold in the UK the run up to festive season, many of which will of course be unwrapped on Christmas morning.

But when it comes to how we use our handheld devices to shop online, is it mobile apps or standard mobile websites that are leading the way? It is here that we see an interesting divergence in the way in which digital consumers use smartphones and tablets.


Apps are responsible for 78% of the time we spend shopping on our mobile phones, compared with just 44% of the time on tablets.

When shopping on tablet devices, we are much more comfortable using ordinary ecommerce websites.

This may, of course, simply be a reflection of how poorly many retailers have optimized their websites for smaller screen devices. Traditional websites designed for the desktop, tend to be much more usable on tablets than on smartphones simply due to screen size. Plus, mobile apps often work where the user is not connected to the Internet, which will naturally tend to favour smartphone over tablet use.

Another issue to consider will be the time smartphones have had to embed themselves in our lives – whilst there are a few examples of tablets which have been around longer, generally speaking we’ve only become tablet-savvy in the past year or two, whilst smartphones have had almost a decade in our pockets.

As an example of that, global sales of tablets in 2012 totalled around 120 million units, whilst smartphone sales totalled around 700 million in the same period:

Screen_Shot_2013-01-31_at_14.24.06(Image courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper)

Whichever way you look at the stats, it’s clear that retailers who want to attain maximum exposure to their customers need to cover all the bases. A mobile/tablet-optimised website is a must, but having an app for the app-savvy to use should be a big priority too.

And don’t forget, integrating the two is quite a simple (but oft-forgotten) process – make sure that when a user is visiting your mobile app and they click a web link, they are taken to a mobile-friendly page with a consistent look-and-feel for instance.

Of course, if you’ve missed the boat on Christmas this year, you have a lot of catching-up to do. But that’s not to say you can’t gain some last-minute advantages by optimising your site in other ways. For instance, our guide to “Digital December: 10 Tips to get your SEO in shape for Christmas” could provide some useful hints for the last-minute retailer.

Team Tamar