Tablets promise to transform retail
Tablets hit the mainstream in 2010 when Apple launched its first iPad. In the intervening few years, they’ve become widespread and popular in business and at home. We’ve seen companies adopt new bring your own device (BYOD) policies to accommodate tablets, while application developers refine their products to better suit touch screens, along with solutions to better integrate the devices, such as Samsung’s Knox platform.
We hear a lot about tablets being used in the business for productivity-based activities such as delivering presentations, handling email on the move, and conducting sales meetings. We hear less about their use in customer facing environments such as retail, but in fact they are ideally suited to this arena and there are some compelling success stories to learn from.
leads to efficiency, increases throughput
There are some very clear reasons why it makes business sense to deploy tablets in customer-facing environments such as retail. On the sales floor a tablet can be used to show customers different purchasing options, access stock levels, present store floor plans, show options which are available though not on the sales floor, for example clothing color choices or modular kitchen design layouts.
Moreover in some situations it will be possible to process transactions using a tablet. Being able to take the sales counter to the customer can be much more efficient than making the customer come to the sales point. This is used to great success in Apple Stores, for example. The customer benefits from a more personalized feel to the transaction while not having to queue, while the potential of a sale lost in the time it takes to move from the item to the sales counter is mitigated.
Tablets also have a place for ‘queue-busting’ at busy times, as staff can move through queues offering mobile point-of-sale services. In some situations they can even be used for self-service, product search and other interactions with stock in store, replicating and enhancing the online offer people might access from home.
It is not only in a retail sales environment that tablets can be a valuable asset. Restaurants taking orders, bank staff giving advice while sitting alongside customers rather than across a desk from them, and showing information on screen are further examples of tablets enhancing the customer experience.
transformational, scalable, flexible
Third-party suppliers are alive to the possibilities and are in many ways revolutionizing what can be offered by tablets at the point of sale. In a very real sense this is about both integrating services which have historically developed separately and about providing bespoke, information rich dashboards and more detailed information via the cloud for ubiquitous 24/7 access.
So, for example, tablet-based POS systems can handle PayPal in addition to credit cards. They can provide real-time analysis based on sales data – useful for analyzing sales patterns and understanding what is – and is not – pulling its weight on the inventory, and for informing just-in-time restocking strategies. Some systems go further along the integration line and even offer employee scheduling capabilities.
Systems like this can bring a level of sophistication to business management which is truly transformational and which can be used in national, international and multinational environments.
FTSE 100 company Burberry has been putting tablets to good use for some time. Burberry has seen significant growth throughout 2014, and has increasingly been using iPads in store. Its most recent full accounts statement notes that the company has “continued to blur the lines between the physical and digital” using iPads in store to account for more than 25% of total digital sales.
it’s good for customers too
The introduction of tablets into retail is not just about improving the bottom line and better managing stock levels. It can also deliver key benefits for customers. Orange has worked with electronics and white goods retailer Darty, a company with more than 340 stores operating across France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Orange solution provides staff with tablets and stores with Wi-Fi. This combination is used by staff to access real-time sales applications and offer price comparisons to customers, who also have access to the Wi-Fi for free – an added customer bonus.
The services provided by Orange go beyond simply web access and sales management, and include bespoke provisioning to meet salespeople’s requirements and high-end user support to enable faster training.
Meanwhile UK bookseller Foyles opened a new flagship store in London in mid-2014 with an intriguing take on free Wi-Fi perfectly calibrated for tablet and smartphone users. On opening a web browser visitors to the store are taken to a landing screen offering a book search. Enter a title and customers are shown an in-store map and route to the book in question. This self-service approach to finding what you are looking for can ultimately boost sales.
This bringing together of digital and physical is a key trend which is just beginning to reveal its possibilities for transformation of the customer and client facing business. It is going to be an exciting few years as the use of tablets in this way starts to mature.
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