Will iPad Make M-Commerce Mainstream?

The iPhone has made the mobile Web accessible to more users. Halley Silver, director of online services at King Arthur Flour baking products merchant King Arthur Flour, for one, believes that the iPhone was a game-changer for most merchants in terms of going mobile.

Silver says about 75% of the mobile browsers detected in King Arthur’s analytics are from iPhones. And about 15% of those devices are actually coming from Apple’s newest creation, the iPad, the hybrid laptop-touch screen device for mobile use.

And with Apple announcing that it sold 1 million iPads just 20 days after its April 3 release, Michelle Eichner, vice president of e-mail products for Pivotal Veracity, thinks merchants need to keep it on their radar.

“The enthusiasm surrounding the iPad is impressive, and companies have been scrambling to release iPad-ready applications,” Eichner says. “If a company can gauge a real mobile audience, then it wouldn’t hurt to create a unique iPad-ready mobile application as part of its mobile commerce strategy.”

But is the iPad going to change the m-commerce game the same way the iPhone did? Not yet, says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

For one thing, there’s a learning curve involved in using the iPad, so users need time to adjust to the device. Second, there’s the size: The iPad can fit in a purse, but is not as portable as a smartphone.

Research firm PSFK, which released a study about luxury brands and the iPad, concluded that most luxury sites are not optimized for use on an iPad. David Wertheimer, director of strategy for e-commerce agency Alexander Interactive, says that’s a bad sign, seeing the iPad itself is a luxury item.

Wertheimer pointed out on his blog that the Website for apparel merchant Prada shows up blank on an iPad. That’s a sign that Prada may have its Website optimized for viewing on mobile browsing platforms like Symbian, Google Android and Opera, but has not added user agent coding to its stylesheet that would make it compatible with the iPad’s browser.

And Ask said in a blog post that Gap.com, which has received rave reviews as an m-commerce site, was difficult to load on an iPad because of its size. The site also couldn’t be loaded in its entirety without using the device’s Wi-Fi capability.

So while the iPad stands to give m-commerce a boost, it comes with its own challenges. Even merchants that seemed to have a handle on the mobile channel still need some tweaking to become iPad-friendly.

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