NEW YORK: Major online retailers including eBay, Amazon and Net-a-Porter are looking to tablets as a means of engaging shoppers in new ways.

Internet auction pioneer eBay rolled out its iPad app the same day Apple's slate first hit store shelves, in anticipation of widespread demand for the device.

Steve Yankovich, vice president, eBay Mobile, told the New York Times the aim was to leverage the distinctive features of this channel to foster a unique experience.

"We speculated, along with some input from Apple, that people would use the iPad like a book or a magazine, so the idea was a comfy chair, the couch, the bed, where a laptop doesn't work very well," he said.

At present, eBay is developing a similar tool covering gadgets powered by Google's Android mobile operating system, and building a website tailored specifically for the emerging generation of tablets.

One interesting trend observed to date is that utilising the iPad has become a leisure activity for many consumers, with peak transaction levels coming between 5pm and 11pm in the evening.

Expenditure rates per purchase are also typically greater through this route than via eBay's web and mobile platforms, aided by the relative affluence of iPad owners.

"People are decompressing after work, maybe had a few cocktails," said Yankovich. "That's beautiful, we like that, it's good for shopping.", a designer fashion specialist, has secured 120,000 downloads for its iPad application, introduced in mid-2010.

Alison Loehnis, Net-a-Porter's vice president, sales and marketing, suggested this medium fits closely with the overarching principle supporting its broader business model.

"Our site was founded on the desire to create a fashion magazine that you can shop from," she said.

"This whole notion of literally being able to move things around on the page and slide things into a shopping basket and touch things with your fingers the way you would do in a magazine is really a dream come true.

"The iPad app is really our magazine app."

While the iPad is not yet a mainstream device, it holds particular appeal for Net-a-Porter's core target audience, and 15% of the company's clientele have made purchases from the firm's application thus far.

Ecommerce giant Amazon launched its Windowshop app in October 2010, and decided to employ large numbers of visuals, making sparing use of text.

Sam Hall, director of mobile for, reported such an approach was yielding dividends, and often leads consumers to acquire products they had not first considered.

"The thing that customers have commented on is there's this area of serendipity," said Hall.

"Windowshop looks so different from other shopping experiences, and we show you so many images at once, that you find yourself five minutes later looking at something that you had no intention of looking at originally."

Gilt, a deals site focused on high-end apparel and accessories, provides limited-time only offers, and buyers' using of the iPad purely for pleasure increasingly accords with this idea.

Among the advantages the iPad supplies GiltĀ is the ability to zoom in on items in high resolution, alongside interactive functions like the capacity to "drag and drop" articles of clothing and discover if they match.

"[The iPad] truly is sort of an entertainment source during the member's downtime," said Stefan Pepe, Gilt's chief product officer.

Data sourced from The New York Times; additional content by Warc staff