Retail today is about creating an experience for customers that is different and compelling. We believe dedicated tablets are an effective way to build the types of experiences in retail that will not only provide more opportunity to connect with customers, but drive more revenue. Here are a few use cases we have already started to see:
iPads are replacing the flat pieces of paper for feature lists and prices. Using a tablet like this lets a retailer add more content, make it more engaging and interesting. Instead of static bullet points and text, each product can show more pictures, video and add interactivity. For many products it can be difficult to imagine the experience of actually using the product. Using an iPad to create that experience, customers can immediately and interactively get a better understanding of how it fits into their life and why they should buy it. Digital signage also lets retailers change pricing immediately, without worrying about out-dated pricing stickers confusing customers.
A retail location has limited shelf space, but an online store has virtually unlimited inventory room. While many locations can carry only a fraction of the total number of SKUs they offer, putting in an iPad or Android tablet displaying their online store and including credit card swipe, retailers can combat showrooming by capturing online sales in their brick-and-mortar store. An added benefit is that a retailer can use their existing website to receive and fulfill orders, no need to build out any new infrastructure.
Traditional point-of-sale terminals are old, ugly monstrosities. Retailers spend millions of dollars on their retail space and then plop ugly plastic abominations on the counter. Not only is a tablet more user friendly and intuitive, it is also sleek and sexy sitting on the count. Integrated credit card swipe, printers and cash drawers replace all the necessary components. New apps make it easy to get a customer checked out quickly.
Outside of digital signage and terminals, stand alone iPad kiosks are a great way to engage with customers. Kiosks could become the bridge between a customer’s own mobile device and devices in the retail store. For instance, a kiosk can provide a quick and easy interface for sending product information to a customers phone via text, QR code or by email. Kiosks could be a way to summon help from a store employee or even apply for a job.
These are just at the front of the store, there are lots of uses in the back office as well, including: inventory management, employee timeclocks, evaluations and more. Since we are in the early days of using tablets in retail, we believe there will be increasing numbers of use cases emerging over the next few years.
But what is it about the iPad that makes it perfect for retail?
There are several factors that have contributed to the rise of the iPad and Android tablets in retail.
- They are approachable. Consumers know how they work, they feel comfortable with the user experience and touch interactivity is very intuitive.
- Tablet operating systems abstract a lot of tedious programming for the developer, so all they focus on is the app experience itself. Kiosks can use HTML and web content, a skillset that is easy to find. Many tablet apps exist off the shelf with white-labeling available.
- The hardware is more economical. Traditional kiosks and touch interfaces start in the several thousand dollar per device range. Tablets start in the low hundreds, add an enclosure and you have a useful single-purpose device for only a fraction of the cost.
What are the challenges with using the iPad in retail?
While these use cases are exciting, there are some challenges that exist in using the iPad in this way.
- Connectivity – While connectivity has become less of a problem in the last 2 years, there still remains issues with wireless network availability and security. Many retail locations may have solved the wired internet problem, but that won’t work for tablets as most do not have an ethernet connection. Retailers need to make sure they get the right network equipment to handle the wireless load and implement the right policies for access. Some retailers are putting the tablets on their secure network and others are putting it on a completely different network with fewer security requirements.
- Remote Management – These tablets are designed as consumer devices first, so out-of-the-box they do not have remote management features. When implementing an iPad solution you must evaluate how those devices can be managed and locked down remotely. Several early deployments have failed because IT had to frequently call individual stores to make sure an update was applied or to reboot the device. MokiMobility is solving this problem with a cloud-based mobile device management platform that gives retailers the right tools to effectively manage any number of iPads spread across many different locations. Remote management includes locking down the device to limit functionality to the purpose for which it was installed, like removing YouTube, Safari, iTunes and more, but also locking the home button so users cannot exit out of an app.
- App Distribution/Updating – It’s easy to get an app on a personal device, one that you keep in your pocket or briefcase. But getting apps on a non-personal device can be more tricky, particularly if they are enterprise distributions not available in iTunes. MokiMobility also helps in this arena. Once a device is under management, any app, whether it is a private enterprise version of an app or a public 3rd party version, can be pushed to a device remotely
At MokiMobility we are excited to see all the ways tablets can be employed to create experiences in retail. If you have an idea or are trying to use an iPad in a unique way, tell us about it.