By Dave Stevens
Venture capitalist Mary Meeker recently presented a paper at Stanford comparing the first ten quarters of shipments of each of Apple‘s “I” devices – iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The paper showed that iPad shipments in the product’s first 30 months outrate the iPhone threefold. By January 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, 29% of US adults owned tablet computers or eReaders. Meeker noted that 48% of American children wanted an iPad for Christmas 2012, while 36% wanted an Ipad Mini.
And if ever you wanted proof that the age of the tablet has truly arrived, I can tell you that it has even reached the board-room of the firm where I work. Now that is arriving! The quarterly thud of Board papers arriving on the door mat has been replaced by the ping of a file arriving on the iPad’s Directors’ Desk. Our 30 people-strong Management Committee operates in the same way as the Board. And that’s not a problem, because every one of the 30 Senior Partners that attend have a tablet. For presenters, the ordeal of presenting Powerpoint slides displayed on big television screens at the front of the Board room is no more. Slides are now available on Directors’ Desk – creating a new challenge for presenters about how to get your audience’s attention when they are looking down at a personal screen on their laps. (Best solutions I’ve found so far here by the way are: (1) to tell your audience that you expect that they have read their slides in advance and so they should put down their iPads and discuss or (2) to take advantage of the medium to offer personalised content for each reader.)
The change at the Board room means a change in the way B2B firms do sales. Because CxOs are using tablets more, the tablet is increasingly being used as a sales tool. Which means marketers need to get their sales support materials into a new medium.
More fundamentally, the arrival of tablet is changing the way marketers interact with customers. Customers are accessing marketing content at different times and in different ways. Most obviously so far, B2B online visiting times are changing out of traditional 9 to 5 and into evening. And perhaps for the first time, visitors are genuinely browsing – looking around and clicking on a wider variety of sites and content areas that interest them – perhaps reflecting the increased time and less disciplined mood offered by the new setting in which tablets enable B2B content to be accessed. According to the US Census Bureau, 144 million Americans spend 52 minutes per day travelling – and that is time that could be spent accessing content by tablet. And according to Morgan Stanley, the average American spends more than three hours per day in front of the television – time for a second screen. Genuine browsing calls for deeper content than B2B firms are used to (hence the growth in focus on “content marketing”). Because the content has to compete with other distractions such as television, marketers are now looking to new means of getting their messages across – hence the growth of video, the craze for branded tablet applications, and the bizarre infographics bubble which I write about elsewhere in these pages. In advertising, the tablet is bringing a focus on AdBank (a video format that lets users choose to watch a programme in return for credits or the ability to skip the ad after a few seconds), full page banners, pre-roll with overlay (offering content within the ad), and rich media interstitials.
And the prediction from Meeker is that tablet and smartphone installed base will exceed that of the PC globally by the end of this quarter. We have arrived in a new world. Now marketers need to learn how to survive and thrive within it.