Living in a post-PC world

It was less than two years ago that the late Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. At the time, he heralded the beginning of the “post-PC” era. The PC era had been ushered in thirty-five years prior by a young Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who envisioned in 1975, “a computer on every desktop and in every home.”

That vision has been fulfilled, and the PC, which evolved with the Internet to become our first truly connected device, has impacted virtually every industry imaginable. Among the many changes, it has dramatically changed consumer shopping behaviors forever.

According to comScore, e-commerce spending in the United States has seen double-digit year-over-year growth during the past five consecutive quarters, reaching $49.6B in Q4 2011. Those computers on our desks and in our homes are clearly being used for shopping.

Impressive as the PC-fueled online commerce growth has been, we are in the midst of a dramatic shift away from the PC as our primary Internet access point. As our online attention veers away from the tethered desktop and goes increasingly mobile, so too will our online shopping transactions.

In its latest data on smartphone penetration in the U.S., Nielsen reported that 48% of American adults had smartphones. On a global basis, 2011 marked the first year that smartphone shipments outpaced that of PCs. New research from Canalys said there were 487.7 million smartphones shipped in 2011 versus 414.6 million PCs shipped. It’s interesting to note that Canalys includes tablets in their PC numbers, so if you consider both smartphones and tablets as “post-PC” products, as Mr. Jobs did, the shift toward smartphones and tablets is even more dramatic.

The impact of a post-PC world on shopping is already apparent. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently issued a report called “Mobile Commerce: Reinventing the Way Consumers Shop.” The study found that 37% of mobile owners engaged in commerce from their respective device, which could include making a purchase, redeeming a coupon or searching for coupons. The CEA report claims that approximately 35% of all online transactions are now completed from a mobile device, including smartphones, tablets and cell phones.

The post PC era has just begun and already more than one-third of online commerce is not coming from PCs. With the glowing success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet; an abundance of new Android tablets from multiple manufacturers; rumors of Windows 8 tablets; and of course, the highly anticipated announcement of the iPad 3, the inertia is building.

As smartphones and tablets, our constantly-connected and constant companions, become an increasingly convenient and effective way to shop, whether for a carefully researched purchase or an impulse buy that is just a tap away.

It’s clear that the majority of our online purchases will be made from our post-PC devices — our smartphones and tablets — in the very near future.

Myk Willis is founder of Myxer Social Radio, a website and app that allows people to listen to music together.

See what our readers had to say on this topic in the April 2012 issue.

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