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Are tablets changing the way we shop?


What are the pitfalls of mobile shopping?
Love the free WiFi at your local grocery store? Just be sure to avoid transmitting any sensitive personal or financial information over an unsecured network.
Love the free WiFi at your local grocery store? Just be sure to avoid transmitting any sensitive personal or financial information over an unsecured network.
© iStockphoto.com/Tyler Olson

Security is always an issue when shopping online, but mobile devices open consumers up for some additional safety concerns, just by virtue of their portability.

Many experts warn to be wary of what you type when connected to an unknown or public WiFi network. You never know who might be lurking there, poised to grab any financial or personal information you type. It's safer to make purchases on a private, password-protected network. Security analysts also warn to make sure any transactions are going through a URL starting with https rather than http. The "s" means it is a secure site, and that the data you are transmitting, such as credit card numbers and other personal information, is encrypted. Also be sure to look into any online vendors you visit to make sure they are reputable.

Another basic but very important safety measure to consider is password protecting your mobile device. You're likely walking around with a treasure trove of information that someone could use to steal your identity or your money should your phone or tablet be lost or stolen. Any apps that contain sensitive information should also be password protected, if they have that option. Some mobile devices have a feature that lets you unlock your phone with facial recognition. And other security technologies, like biometric fingerprint reading, are in the works.

Malware is still far more common for desktops and laptops, but the number of malicious mobile apps is growing. Experts warn to only download apps from reputable locations like Apple's App Store, Amazon or Google Play. Even then, shoppers should be wary and do research, including looking at reviews of the apps to see if there are any complaints. There are also mobile apps designed to protect against malware and viruses, although they, too, need to be researched.

Using payment services like PayPal for purchases, or the aforementioned digital wallets, can also help secure your financial information, provided you are taking other safety precautions. They prevent you from having to type in credit and debit card numbers directly. And using credit cards is a tad safer than using debit cards, since they aren't a direct route to your bank account and tend to offer more protection in the case of stolen cards or numbers.

In another way tablets are shaping the shopping experience, people often browse on a mobile device but making their final purchase on a traditional PC. Some estimate that mobile devices account for 25 percent of e-commerce site visits, but that this translates into only 15 percent of purchases [source: Miller and Clifford]. However, tablet and smartphone sales have been rapidly increasing, while sales of more traditional desktop and laptop computers are in a steady decline. With increases in the mobile device market share and shifting attitudes, the percentage of sales completed on mobile devices is bound to go up.

Many retail sites are instituting changes that make both mobile and computer purchasing easier, such as logins that allow shopping carts and personal information to sync over multiple devices, plus more user-friendly checkout areas. Holiday shopping trends like Cyber Monday (the post-Black Friday online shopping extravaganza) and Free Shipping Day are also leading to increases in online shopping in general. Is e-commerce going to eventually kill in-person shopping?