Strong competition for tablet retail revenues

The tablet market is set to explode over the next five years with retail revenues on such devices increasing from $34.5bn in 2011 to $121.5bn in 2016. Yet analysis from Informa suggests that the operators’ slice of this pie is in danger from independent retailers, such as Carphone Warehouse, Amazon and Tesco and direct manufacturers like Apple, coupled with the challenge in convincing consumers to take out data plans attached to these devices.

Informa expects independent retailers to increase their share of smartphone retail revenues from 29 per cent in 2011 to 34 per cent to 2016, a trend expected to be even more prevalent in the tablet segment.

According to Julio Puschel, principal analyst at Informa: “Tablets will drive significant changes to the current telecoms retail business model. New entrants, such as Amazon and other consumer electronics specialists which have already a very evolved online and multichannel strategy, will drive online tablet sales even faster than online smartphone sales, which will force operators to review their multichannel approach.”

Furthermore, independent retailers are innovating and promoting significant changes in telecoms retail, such as modernising their stores to offer a better customer experience, product testing and offering specialised customer support that also focuses on consumer education. As handsets develop and become more complex, presenting their features and benefits to consumers is more of a challenge for operators. Specialist retailers have to date proven to be better able to educate consumers by providing an enhanced, interactive shopping experience.

“Telecoms operators will need to watch the independent retailers closely to see how they are transferring their retail expertise to the smartphone and tablet market. They need to be able to offer an outstanding shopping experience that can match or outperform the independent retailers – not simply pushing device sales, but also demonstrating the services, content and applications attached to these devices,” said Puschel.

In related news, Google’s Android platform is becoming increasingly more popular in the tablet space.

In 4Q11, tablet devices running on Google’s operating system accounted for 39 per cent of the global market share, up from 29 per cent in the same period a year earlier, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

During the quarter, global tablet shipments reached 27 million with Apple iOS maintaining its strong leadership at 58 percent. Global Android tablet shipments tripled annually to 10.5 million units, driven by models distributed in various countries by brands such as Amazon, Samsung and Asus.

Global tablet shipments hit 66.9 million units in full-year 2011, surging 260 percent from 18.6 million in full-year 2010.

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