Apple customers are emerging as an important new demographic, accounting for a massive 89% of mobile commerce sales.

When Orbitz admitted that it ranks products differently for Mac users, citing 20-30% higher average order values, much comment was made about the difference between Mac and PC customers.

But that is only half the story. When you factor in mobile devices, the new Apple demographic begins to have significant implications for marketers.

Apple mobile customers dominate mobile commerce, especially on tablets. Analysis of 21 million mobile ecommerce transactions by SeeWhy in February and March (2013) found that Apple customers are fundamentally different from Android customers: 89% of mobile ecommerce sales were on iOS, with 70% of total mobile sales coming from iPad alone.

Remember that there are significantly more Android devices than iOS devices, so if Android customers were the same as Apple ones, those figures shouldn't be so: In essence, Android should drive more mobile sales.

Digging into this in more detail by looking at Web traffic sources, it becomes clear that Android usage is higher than iOS over cellular, but iOS usage is much higher over Wi-Fi, suggesting that Android users have less access to WiFi—or aren't using it.

In fact, Android device usage patterns suggest they are used more as utilitarian devices, helping to achieve tasks when out of the home, such as finding stores and accessing the web using cellular. Those patterns are what we normally associate with smartphones—many fewer purchases with a much smaller average order value than tablets.

Tablets are used in a fundamentally different way from smartphones. Used primarily at home, on the couch and in bed, tablets are a recreational device with dramatically higher average order values than desktops or smartphones, generating three times more revenue for e-commerce merchants than phones.

Are Apple customers really different?

Apple was first to market with the iPad and has a larger market share. Could that account for the difference, or are Apple customers really different?

In a survey (SeeWhy, April 2013) of 1,500 US consumers, we found clear differences in the demographics of Apple phone owners. They tend to be younger, better educated, living in urban areas, and are more affluent than Android users: 60% of Apple phone users earn over $75,000 per year, compared with 44% of Android phone owners.

As for market share, 10.3% of US online consumers own an iPad, whereas 8.9% own an Android tablet. That means there are a lot of Android tablets out there not being used for shopping.

Apple customers are spending more on mobile for three fundamental reasons:

  • Premium customers. Apple customers chose to buy the premium product in the market, attracted by style, fashion, and form. They are prepared to pay extra. Their demographic profile is different, and they are more affluent. This is a sophisticated market that chooses high-end products, and a market that most marketers will want to tap into.
  • Tablets. Although there are slightly more Apple tablets in the market than Android ones—and, therefore, we should expect more Apple conversions—Android tablets are not being used for shopping at anything like the same rate. By comparison, Apple tablets are shopping machines, being used late into the night as part of an evening's recreation.
  • Usability. Some evidence suggests that Apple tablets are easier to use and somehow more engaging. Easy Wi-Fi connections may be part of the story, coupled with more apps and a consistent app experience that encourages user engagement. If users spend more time on the device and are using Wi-Fi to surf recreationally on a big screen while sipping a glass of wine on the couch in the evening, then purchases follow.

How can marketers tap into the Apple demographic?

  • Optimize for Apple tablets. E-commerce sites should focus on getting a full website experience (product range, product detail, functionality, etc.) optimized for tablets. Customers have shown that they prefer a tablet version of the full site over a shopping app. Accordingly, a priority for e-commerce businesses should be to optimize natively for iPad first; since the device alone accounts for 70% of mobile sales, that should not be a hard decision. Case studies show that where merchants have built device-optimized experiences, significant increases in conversions, average order values, and revenue have followed.
  • Treat Apple customers differently. Orbitz has shown that presenting a different product mix, more suited to a particular segment, can drive incremental revenues. Just as you may already segment high value traffic sources and show different content, if you make it easier for your Apple customers to find the types of premium products they are more likely to buy, then sales will increase. Be wary, though, of offering differential pricing on different devices.
  • Adapt (or implement) remarketing strategies. If you're not already remarketing with retargeted advertising and browse-based email campaigns, you need to. Now that you can recognize high-value customers easily, giving them a nudge will drive more to purchase. You should test adjusting your retargeting strategies to recognize the higher value of Apple customers and adapt your emails so that they display well on mobile devices (though Apple is very good in general with emails). Perhaps more important is to recognize that an iPhone shopper is unlikely to buy now but is probably a high value client. Remarketing can deliver great personalized service to bring them back on a different device to purchase.

We've reached a point now where, for the immediate future at least, tablet-based commerce is big and growing bigger fast, and it is dominated by Apple customers. It's time to apply this knowledge and accept that we now have a new demographic.

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Three Marketing Tactics to Tap Into the Emerging Apple Demographic

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image of Charles Nicholls

Charles Nicholls is the founder and chief strategy officer of shopping cart recovery company SeeWhy. He specializes in shopping cart abandonment and email remarketing, and serves as chair of the Conversion Academy.

LinkedIn: Charles Nicholls

Twitter: @webconversion