Tablets have been around for over a year but although penetration figures have now been revealed for both the UK and US markets, we still know little about who’s buying them.
However, some of that fog was lifted, for the US at least, by the latest Pew Internet & American Life Project research into mobile device ownership, undertaken in May 2011.
The Pew Study’s penetration figures for the US market largely concurred with – those already released by Nielsen showing growth from 5% in November 2010 to 8% by the time of the survey in May 2011. However, as suggested by the Nielsen study, tablet growth, though impressive, was eclipsed by the increased penetration of ereaders which grew from 6% to 12% in the same period.
However, the Pew study looked beyound penetation and incorporated data on owner demographics too. In the absence of equivalent stats for the UK market, these results provide a good early marker for the types of people who are purchasing and using tablets.
Firstly, as expected, the category is male dominated – 10% of US men own a tablet compared to 6% of women. And penetration of tablets amongst men has grown faster in the past 6 months (up from 6% to 10%) than for women (up from 4% to 6%) – not only are tablet owners predominantly male, but the proportion of male owners is growing.
Tablet purchase is also biased towards younger age groups. Those most likely to own a tablet are aged between 18-29 (12% penetration), followed by those aged 30-49 (9%). However, it’s interesting to note that ownership only falls away sharply amongst 65+s (2%) – penetration amonst 50 – 64s is still a healthy 8%. Clearly, tablets are not just the young person’s new plaything.
The final useful nugget of information the Pew Study reveals is that the most affluent are almost twice as likely to own one vs. the overall population. Penetration amongst those with household incomes above $75k is 17% against 8% for the US as a whole.
This backs up our view that tablets in general, and the iPad in particular, hold significant potential for premium and luxury brands, both in terms of apps and advertising, if they can tailor their offering to take advantage of the specifics of the media i.e. large screen format and interactivity.
It is still early days for the tablet but penetration is expected to continue to rise rapidly – emarketer estimates penetration will almost triple between the end of 2010 and the end of this year. And some publications are starting to post some impressive numbers for their iPad editions – for example, the Times reported 35,000 subscribers for its iPad edition at the beginning of last month, and those subscribers had an average household income in excess of £100,000.
Even with a rapidly growing and affluent user base, and the emergence of some genuinely credible promotional vehicles to reach them, we don’t think the iPad hasn’t arrived as a key vehicle for premium and luxury advertisers yet. But there’s little doubt it will do soon.