Mobile technology has revolutionized the in-store shopping experience, and fewer devices have done it better than the tablet. In-store tablet use merges the best of traditional, sensory-oriented in-store shopping with web-savvy consumer demand for instant data and transactions. Though many retailers are adopting this in-store technology, they’re just starting to scratch the surface of its potential. There are many ways retailers can use tablets to transform the in-store experience. Here are five that top the list:
1. Tablet Kiosks
Tablets offer a newer, cheaper and sleeker way for retailers to offer in-store kiosks while providing a fundamentally different experience from traditional kiosks. Tablet kiosks bring interactive, rich experiences that allow shoppers to develop their own experiences, such as choosing how long the engagement will last and selecting only what they need. Kiosks also let brands provide an “endless aisle to shoppers,” giving them an ability to buy products online that are not available in store and thereby avoiding potential customer walkouts.
They also can be used to interact with customers in different ways: Retailers can provide guided shopping; video and audio content; the ability to interact with social networks; newsletter sign-up; valuable content such as stories about the product; and customer surveys ― all while helping the brand stay connected with its customers. As sleds for tablet devices become available , mobile payments such as card swipe, chip and PIN, and NFC will become a reality, allowing tablet kiosks to take on the additional functionality of a mobile point of sale (mPOS) device—something typically reserved for non-tablet mobile devices.
2. Clienteling With In-hand Tablets
“Clienteling” delivers a personal, service-enhancing customer experience by putting a tablet in the hands of the store associate. By leveraging customer profile data such as preferences, purchase history and location, the store associate can recommend products or packages of products and/or services without having to leave the shopper’s side. For example, a store associate could use the tablet to create an entire outfit for a shopper based on her preferences; visually display that “look;” accept payment; have the products delivered the way the shopper would like (i.e., at home or in store); and present the shopper with an additional offer for the next time she shops. The associate simply needs to enter the shopper’s name and let the technology, combined with good customer service skills, provide the ultimate clienteling experience. A good example of this is seen at House of Fraser, the second largest retailer in the U.K. As part of its ‘order online, pick up in store’ program, House of Fraser provides an in-store concierge area where shoppers are greeted by sales associates who prepare their orders for pick up. In the meantime, shoppers can use iPad devices to continue to browse and shop, or associates at the concierge area can walk them through a personalized selling experience. The experience has won a high level of customer praise and assisted in driving additional sales —both in store and online.
3. Interactive Digital Signs
Tablets make great digital signs. Their compact size and portability provide retailers a more nimble approach compared to traditional digital signs. Tablets let brands change their messaging easily to address different customers throughout the course of an engagement, with design impact limited only by a brand’s creativity. In businesses that are driven by daily consumer demand, brands can use digital sign tablets to address daily needs, boosting sales according to their inventory or certain promotions. In addition, tablet digital signs can be used to drive a higher level of customer service. For example, as part of Apple’s effort to replace all paper signs with iPads in their retail stores, shoppers can call for a sales associate by tapping a digital sign on the iPad. Shoppers get a notification of how long it will take a sales associate to arrive at the shopper’s location, eliminating the need to search down an available associate.
4. Managing Floor Personnel
Tablets can provide store managers with a better way to manage in-store associates, particularly in larger stores where managers supervise a greater number of associates. Since store managers typically are less hands-on with customers, and more focused on management of store personnel and operations, using a tablet makes it easier to move throughout the store. For example, if a store manager notices customer volume building in an area, a simple mobile notification to workers closest to that area can help speed customer service. Tablets also can let store associates oversee break times and provide better overall employee communication. Store associates also would need mobile devices as a standard part of their work gear. For example, using tablets to manage floor personnel works well in the Apple Store since store managers have iPads and each store associate carries an iPod touch.
5. Training In-Store Personnel
The ability to create and disseminate training material that is portable and easily accessible is invaluable, but tablet technology also allows for far greater training capabilities. From playing instructional videos to more advanced applications such as using augmented reality to teach employees about product releases, the training uses for tablets are endless. Tablets also make sales force incentive programs more fun and engaging by providing real-time status updates and promotional information.
You Can’t Table Tablet Marketing
Retailers will never innovate quickly enough to keep up with the ever-evolving technological demands of today’s consumer, but those who are actively innovating ― and developing new brand touch points ― certainly will set themselves apart. Retailers that are integrating tablets into their brand strategies ― and maintaining flexible, extensible platforms able to evolve along with these technologies and the consumers that use them ― are best positioned for success. Tablets are here to stay; retailers need to embrace them and strongly consider how they can be used in stores to enhance brand experiences and build brand loyalty.
Gary Lombardo manages mobile, multichannel and social commerce product marketing for Demandware. He can be found tweeting at @garylombardo and can be reached at