Lately I’ve been asking retailers a key question about mobile commerce. Who rules mobile shopping: Apple or Android? I keep getting the same answer. It’s Apple, by a mile.
This is important in light of the fact that smartphones running Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system far outpace Apple Inc.’s iPhone in terms of smartphone market share. Android phones account for 52.5% of smartphones in use while iPhones account for 34.3%, according to mobile and web measurement firm comScore Inc. On the other side of mobile, Apple dominates the tablet market. The iPad has a 76.4% market share, according to research firm eMarketer Inc. Android and a handful of other players account for the remaining 23.6%.
Cory Pulice, vice president of e-commerce at e.l.f. cosmetics, was kind enough to open up his Google Analytics for me and he tells the real story in m-commerce. At e.l.f. cosmetics, from Oct. 1 through Dec. 16, 69.02% of mobile traffic came from devices running Apple’s iOS mobile operating system while 29.25% came from Android smartphones and tablets. Revenue numbers are even more telling. For the same period, 78.59% of mobile sales stemmed from an iOS device while only 20.74% came from an Android device. Apple’s iPad rules e.l.f. cosmetics’ mobile sales with a 49.50% share. No Android tablets break into the top 10 devices at e.l.f. cosmectics, and the device in the No. 10 slot for revenue gets a 0.42% share, so it’s fair to deduce that the share belonging to Android tablets is small.
According to comScore, Android commands the smartphone market. But look at e.l.f. cosmetics: The iPhone accounts for 27.48% of mobile sales while the nearest competing Android smartphone, the Motorola Droid Razr 4G, accounts for a mere 0.78% of mobile sales. Since we know that 20.74% of revenue came from an Android device, I would cut three or four percentage points off for Android tablets and say that 17% of mobile sales came from all Android smartphones combined, compared with 27.48% coming from the iPhone alone.
Let’s look around. 22.5% of web-only jeweler Ice’s total traffic is mobile; 14% from smartphones and 8.5% from tablets, Ice says. More than 70% of mobile traffic stems from an Apple device.
Owners of the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch are the most lucrative mobile shoppers for Wine.com. More than 90% of mobile sales stem from an Apple device, CEO Rich Bergsund says.
“It’s about our demographic,” Bergsund explains. “The Wine.com demographic is an affluent and educated group, and that’s the sweet spot for mobile devices Apple sells. They charge a premium and they are worth it, and those consumers are our demographic. Plus, the user interface is easier on Apple than other platforms; most mobile sites work better on an iPhone than on other alternatives.”
Let’s go across the pond and check on Apple and Android. During the last week of November beginning Nov. 25, 43.48% of mobile traffic to the U.K. affiliate network of Affiliate Window was from iPads, 32.46% from iPhones, 18.29% from Android devices, 1.62% from BlackBerrys and 4.15% from other mobile devices, Affiliate Window reports. January through November, 59% of mobile sales came from iPads, 24% from iPhones, 12% from Android devices, 3% from BlackBerrys and 2% from other mobile devices, Affiliate Window says. That gives Apple a commanding 83% share of mobile sales.
“Apple users are typical early adopters. They’re generally tech-savvy individuals who embrace new ways of interacting and transacting online,” says Kevin Edwards, strategy director at Affiliate Window. “Given the higher purchase barrier to entry for iPhones this tends to indicate users have higher disposable incomes. It may be purely anecdotal but there is also a sense that Apple users are more comfortable and confident shoppers who don’t have the same reservations when buying online. I think this also extends to the iPad. We typically see conversion rates for the iPad outstrip standard desktop rates coupled with higher average order values, making the traffic and consumer particularly attractive to retailers.”
OK, back to the States. 50% of total HauteLook traffic now stems from mobile devices, says Greg Bettinelli, chief marketing officer. 55% of that traffic is from smartphones while 45% is from tablets. 50-55% of mobile traffic comes from iPhones, 40-45% from iPads, and less than 5% from Android devices.
“Tablet transactions are on average 50% bigger than ones on iPhones,” Bettinelli says. “If we make $2 for every person on an iPhone, we make $2.50 for desktop users and $3 for iPad shoppers. An iPad is a pre-qualifier for a better customer, a lot of our better customers have iPads. I can’t say it’s fully because of the device. The device is a good experience, but it’s not that much better than the computer, so it’s as much about the customer who uses that device. An iPad is an indicator of the quality of a customer.”
That goes for iPhones and iPod Touch devices, too. Any Apple device is an indicator of a higher quality customer. These consumers shop more and they buy more. In my opinion, Apple users are more dedicated to the mobile web and apps. They’re buying a premium device not to talk on a phone but to make extensive use of wireless data services, in other words, to browse the web and use apps. And they have more disposable income than Android users. Just look at the difference in how the phones are marketed. If you want an iPhone, be prepared to spend at least $200. On the flipside, wireless carriers are giving away Android phones if you sign a contract. You’ve got Android smartphones in the hands of some people who don’t even care what kind of phone they’ve got, as long as it was free.
When it comes to allocating resources for mobile commerce programs, cater to your Apple device customers first and foremost. Do what you have to do for Android customers to get by. Push resources toward things like optimizing your m-commerce site for the iPhone 5 or optimizing your e-commerce site for the iPad mini or building an iPhone app. Just remember: In mobile commerce, Apple rules.