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What Are Different Demographics Doing on Their Tablets?

August 27th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Tablet use is surging—no doubt about that. In fact, by the end of the year, eMarketer projects the number of tablet users will grow to nearly 70 million in the U.S.—more than double the number of users in 2011—and that strong growth will continue each year through 2015.

Right now, eMarketer says, about 20 percent of U.S. consumers use a tablet at least monthly. So far, according to eMarketer, about one-third of U.S. tablet users are aged 18 to 34, about 20 percent are aged 35 to 44 and one-third are aged 45 and up. Overall, the split is fairly even, but future growth is expected to occur fastest among the youngest and oldest users.

What consumers use their tablets for varies depending on their age, and knowing how different age groups use their tablets can help you target them appropriately with your marketing messages and website. Here’s what a study conducted for Adobe and cited by eMarketer found:

Playing games is the number-one tablet activity for all tablet owners under age 50. For tablet owners aged 18 to 29, game-playing was followed by shopping, reading books and checking email.

For those aged 30 to 49, email came in second, reading books third and shopping a distant fourth.

For those over 50, reading email was by far the most common activity, cited by 28.6 percent. In fact, email’s importance increases with age. The 30- to 49-year-olds were nearly twice as likely to use tablets for email than were younger demographics.

Although much has been made of tablet shopping, even among the heaviest tablet shoppers (18 to 29), only 16.1 percent reported shopping on tablets. In the older age groups, the percentage was under 10 percent for both groups. Also surprising: Users 50 and up were far more likely to view videos on their tablets (14.3 percent, compared to 6.4 percent of the 30- to 49-year-olds and just 5.4 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds).

Another finding of interest to small business owners: More than 30 percent of users in all age groups have clicked on a mobile ad at some point (whether on a smartphone or tablet). Younger users were more likely to do so, with 40.2 percent of those aged 18 to 29 reporting they had clicked on an ad, but even among the 50-plus crowd, 30 percent had done so.

What conclusions can you draw from this study? Two come to mind:

First, I think it’s still too early to tell what uses tablets will be most popular for. So far, it’s a mix of the fun (games), the serious (email) and the in-between (shopping). Tasks that can be completed just as easily or more easily on smartphones (such as checking weather or sports scores) were less likely to be done on a tablet. So think about how you could offer greater functionality to tablet users than you do in your business’s smartphone apps.

Second, the good news is consumers of all ages are comfortable with mobile advertising to a greater degree than we might expect. If you haven’t already gotten your feet wet in mobile advertising, maybe the time is now.

Image by Flickr user IntelFreePress (Creative Commons)


The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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