Surge in smartphone and tablet demand shows businesses must tailor content to mobile devices

Small businesses must start tailoring their online content for tablets and smartphones, especially the iPad, according to new Nielsen figures, which show 24% of internet users are considering buying a tablet within the next 12 months.

The figures, which track the internet usage trends of Australians, also reveal 22% are considering purchasing a handheld multimedia device other than a mobile phone, and 28% are considering buying a smartphone over the next year.

Nielsen managing director for online, Matt Bruce, says the figures reveal Australians are spending much more time online through a number of different devices, and suggests businesses start tailoring their content to different devices, especially the iPad.

“There is a huge trend here, and when you put that together with the intention to purchase handheld or media devices, this points to people spending more time online in the coming years, more time spent watching video, more time spent watching content on apps and so on. It’s a very exciting time for the digital media industry.”

“We always talk about the three screens – the PC, the television and the phone. But we can see that people are now consumer media differently depending on what device they are on, and the content you offer needs to change or be available on all devices.”

Bruce points out that different devices, whether they be laptops, iPads, iPhones or other smartphones, all have different requirements. Businesses need to look at each to determine how their sites and online offerings will appear.

He warns that if these sites are too low quality, then users will just disappear and find other content to view.

“There are many things involved in tailoring your websites, even making sure they will all load properly and so on. There are a significant amount of videos on the web that are built in Flash, and if you can’t be seen on an Apple device you’re cutting off a certain segment of the market.”

The figures reveal 36% of Australians accessed the internet through the mobile phone in the past 30 days, and 13% accessed the internet through a handheld media device other than a mobile. In the next 12 months, more than 51% said they were likely to access the internet through a mobile phone.

Bruce points out there is considerable demand for devices other than smartphones, which indicates a solid take-up of devices like the iPad.

“I know there is huge interest in the market around take up of these devices and the most high profile tablet is the iPad, but for almost a quarter of internet users thinking of buying one, that’s a pretty accelerated take-up.”

The figures come just after research group Telsyte released its own research last week which predicts the iPad has sold over 250,000 units in Australia.

The Nielsen figures also show internet users are keen for consuming online video. More than 77% watched video content on their computers during the last 30 days, and another 26% watched videos on their phone. Just under 31% said they watched video on a handheld multimedia device in the past 30 days.

Bruce points out these new devices create opportunities for businesses, in that they can start creating new interactive features on their websites that can be used on different devices, including videos.

“It presents new formats to develop content in. The applications area is a big one, but there are many others and they all change depending on whether you’re building for Android, or BlackBerry, or others.”

Naturally, another huge area is the consumption of media through apps. The Nielsen figures found 17% of users have downloaded an application to their phone and 6% have made a sale or purchase using their phone. Bruce says businesses should consider dabbling in app development.

“We know with smartphones that people love using apps, so that’s a big content creator there. We’ve also seen consistently that when you have a smartphone, you start using the internet more via apps or browsers, or so on.”

However, he says businesses should at least be working on their websites, given the huge amount of content Australian internet users are set to consume over the next few years. Make sure they are able to be viewed across a range of different devices, and ensure loading times are as short as possible, he warns.

“Getting one of these devices for yourself can also be a great way of simply making sure that your own websites are up to scratch,” he says.

“You should also make it easy for users to provide you with feedback. Have an easy link on your site and make sure you ask people to contact you about whatever they think about the site. That’s something particularly loyal customers like very much.”

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