The Year of the Tablet

According to a CNET review of tablets, there are no fewer than 32 tablets to choose from for the holiday season. Really? How can this be true? The average person on the street can name one, maybe two tablet brands, tops—Apple’s iPad and maybe Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablet. You might find an HP or Samsung Galaxy mentioned. But really, 32 choices? How is this possible? And, most important, how will a buyer make a choice?

Well, Best Buy and Research In Motion’s tablet may have the answer: price point. And while this strategy may be meeting with some backlash today, on Black Friday when Best Buy offered a 16-GB and 32-GB PlayBook for $199.99 and $299.99, respectively, those tablets flew off the shelves.

In addition, Amazon’s family of Kindle product sales has quadrupled from a year ago. The new $200 Kindle Fire announced eight weeks ago has helped Amazon boost sales, and the Fire is a top-selling product.

So, the question at hand is, is a price point of $199 the magic number to move the sale of a tablet within a middle-income buyer’s reach? According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, this may be the case.

Pew Research reports that “about half, 51 percent, of (current) tablet users have graduated from college, compared with 28 percent of all U.S. adults; 62 percent are fully employed, compared with 44 percent of the population overall. They are nearly twice as likely as U.S. adults overall to have a household income of at least $75,000 per year (53 percent versus 28 percent).” And, most intriguing of all, “the largest share of tablet users, 46 percent, are in their 30s and 40s, compared with 35 percent of the population overall.” These numbers suggest that a lot of potential sales of tablets are out there for the right combination of brand credibility, functionality and price.

Implications for marketers …

This holiday season is being called the year of the tablet. Expectations for tablet sales are running very high. In fact, ChangeWave surveyed 3,043 North American consumers Nov. 1-13 (2011) about their consumer electronics purchasing plans in the next 90 days. The results showed that 14 percent planned to buy a tablet in the next three months. Of those, 65 percent planned to get an Apple iPad 2 and 22 percent planned to buy an Amazon Kindle Fire. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab was a distant third with 4 percent of respondents.

So, the good news is that in early 2012, we are likely to have more potential customers we can reach with marketing communications on their tablets. The bad news? We are likely to have more potential customers we can reach with marketing communications on their tablets. More devices mean more operating platforms, which means more expense to develop and deliver marketing programs. Just as marketers have been grappling with mobile platforms, 2012 looks to be the start of multiple tablet platforms as well.


by Carolyn Ladd
Vice President Account Planning and Digital Strategy

Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network