Apple’s iPad Meets the Retail Business

Discussion
Apr 23, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It wasn’t hard to guess where the recent Ad Age article was going with
the headline: IPad Poised to Revolutionize Retail Industry. So what
exactly is the iPad going to do to accomplish this feat?

In simple terms, fans
of the new gadget and its aps believe
it will change catalogs by making them more dynamic with the use of audio,
video and, of course, wireless purchasing. The Ad Age article
pointed to the Gap’s 1969 Stream ap as an example of what retailers can do
to transform catalogs. The interactive program includes content from
designers, music, geo-locators to find the nearest store and more.

Kevin Ertell, VP-retail strategy at Forsee Results, told Ad Age the
iPad will eventually replace a host of devices found in stores including kiosks
and hand-held scanners. "We’ll need to see the price come down
before it gets to chain retail stores," he said.

Edward Brojerdi, president-MDC Innovation Partners, said, "Without
a doubt, the iPad will have a dramatic impact on the in-store retail experience.
There are some logistical details to get sorted out — how do we make sure
they don’t walk out the door, that people aren’t going to different screens
— before it becomes ubiquitous, but it will happen."

As a customer-facing technology, the iPad will enable a more satisfying shopping
experience by enabling customers and/or the sales associate helping them to
customize purchases and place special orders. It can also serve as a de facto
personal shopping device helping consumers draw items from across the store
to complete a wardrobe, home entertainment system or any other component-based
purchase.

Discussion Questions: Is there any reality to the hype that Apple’s iPad
will revolutionize the retail industry? Where do you think it will have its
biggest effect? Where do you think it will fall well short of the hype?

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19 Comments on "Apple’s iPad Meets the Retail Business"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Tablet or pad technology will eventually revolutionize retail–but it’s more likely to be in a form with more robust Wi-Fi capability and maybe a USB port.

The other key will be market penetration and, for lack of a better term, apps.

We’ve seen how the iPhone and other smartphones have begun to revolutionize how people come and go to market. No reason to believe we won’t see the same kind of thing happen when the iPad or HP’s Slate or whatever gains similar acceptance.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

It’s not s stretch to see that “tablet” computers (of which the iPad is the groundbreaker) have the potential to change the landscape of retail operations. But I’m not sure whether the changes will be in the form of sales drivers or operating efficiency.

A simple, portable handheld device like the iPad could be used to communicate inventory levels, planogram changes, and so on to store management. But Apple and many other retailers have already taken the checkout process “wireless” with much smaller handheld devices than the iPad. I think a lot of these changes will come down to the type of “app” development encouraged by Apple for B2B purposes, not just for consumers.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

I’m not sure the hype in the article matches the reality of beat-up clipboards and the impossibility of finding a pen in a retail store. Yes the technology is cool, yes some upscale brands will implement them but the cost of entry and the environment they will be placed into seem a far way off for general use. It’s not a Newton but it’s not a mag-stripe reader either.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 15 days ago
From the moment it came out, I started to dream about the possibilities! Now, keep in my mind my focus on retail is on staff performance and coaching. I’ve dreamt of how multiple applications could seamlessly come together on the iPad. I’ve imagined an employee being able to pull off their sales performance data, click on a troublesome metric for some advice, click again to link to the specific training video and more. Managers then access the same data, click on an employee, get immediate coaching tips and if necessary more online content on how to deal with the issue. All onboarding training is contained inside the little iPad. Scheduling’s there too. All training, yep. Chat rooms and every other appropriate networking site live. And imagine the interactive PK you could bring to the staff and customers alike. It’s more about the software possibilities than the hardware, but somehow just seeing that gleaming little tablet made these possibilities seem more realistic than ever before. Now, if only I knew how to write applications that could… Read more »
David Dorf
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

We’ve been working with partners on an iPod Touch mobile POS solution (similar to that used in Apple stores), so I don’t think an iPad version is far-fetched at all. The key will be getting device management right. For use in the enterprise, there have to be ways to lock the device down, and keep it updated automatically.

The iPad, and I guess tablets in general, are great for clientelling in the aisles, and for replacing kiosks. Heck, you could attach one to a pole and just about be done. But I’m not sure the iPad has anything better than existing tablets, so I don’t see adoption in this area increasing.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
11 years 15 days ago

The user interface is elegant and easy to use, and beautiful. I have no doubt that the potential to transform the retail experience is there, on the software side.

But what concerns me more than anything about a store environment is ruggedness. At NRF, nearly every vendor with a mobile app had an iPhone in their booth, but I haven’t seen iPhones or iPod Touches in the wild in a retail environment with a retail application outside of the Apple Store. When you can drop them, step on them, run a cart over them, and pour a Coke in them, and they still work, then I’ll buy that they are ready to revolutionize retail.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
11 years 15 days ago

The iPad is still just a fancy web browser. It won’t be useful at retail until it gets a camera and lets the head office know what’s actually going on on the floor.

More people will be browsing more sites, so expect a slight boost to e-commerce.

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
11 years 15 days ago

There’s a gap between hype and reality here that I have trouble bridging. The iPad is a perfect device for interactive media consumption, but it’s not portable in the way a phone is. Yes, people will take it on the plane to watch movies, or have one kicking around the kitchen/family room/dining room, but I don’t see people walking into a retail store with an iPad under their arm.

So, retail applications will require store-owned iPads as the interface. Putting a fragile, steal-able, $500 device in the hands of shoppers is a recipe for disaster. Retail environments require fully-hardened, drop-proof, scratch-proof, drool-proof devices, so I don’t see this generation of iPads fitting the bill.

That said, there’s no denying the appeal of the interface, and the amazing interactive media experiences that it could enable. But I think we are a few technology generations away from seeing those applications become a regular part of the bricks-and-mortar retail experience.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 15 days ago
It’s not hard to imagine sales associates with something like an iPad on their belts where they could call up information at the blink of an eye to help customers get what they want; much the way the mobile devices revolutionized the car rental business. It is harder to imagine handing them out at the door and letting customers use them at their discretion, but still quite possible/do-able. All that is imaginable, but no device should ever take the place of a great, personable sales associate who innately cares about helping people find what they want. Those who believe that mechanical devices can replace quality human engagement (quality being the operative term there) are sorely mistaken. However, where the human engagement is severely damaged (airlines) or really doesn’t matter (rental cars), you’re probably going to win-win. Somehow, I could never imagine devices taking the place of the great sales associates in an Apple store. I can only imagine them helping them do their job. Maybe as our first clue to the Apple devices “revolutionizing retail,”… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Absolutely! The iPad has the possibility of building apps that give people in the store access to information allowing them to answer questions, demonstrate products, retrieve customer’s files and get special offers, etc. There will be many more apps as people in the stores think about what would make their lives easier. The handheld checkout devices made the lives of people in retail locations easier. The iPad can do much more than just be a checkout device (it can be a checkout device).

Herb Sorensen
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

The iPad alone may not be the answer, but we are inexorably moving toward the personal digital sales assistant. As a sales assistant, the device must engage the shoppers mind, and step through the PROCESS that leads to the close. Unfortunately, most of the people pushing these devices are “gee whiz” merchants, with a poor understanding of the human mind, and specifically, how to bring that mind to the sales close.

Expect to see lots of “mud on the wall” for some time. But whether by design or luck, these devices WILL revolutionize retailing.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 15 days ago

Let’s think about all segments of retail and how often store personnel actually utilize something bigger than a handheld. For inventory management, mobile POS, product info, etc., when is a larger screen, clipboard/tablet-style device truly desired? I feel form factor is the driver in a store environment. No matter how cool a tablet seems, real-world will dictate the devices that endure long-term. No store employee wants to carry a tablet-sized device for more than a few minutes. Long-term, that device will stay in the back room.

Aakash Pahwa
Guest
Aakash Pahwa
11 years 15 days ago

A chic boutique selling $500 dresses in LA or NYC…iPad is in. Probably Neimen Marcus, maybe Nordstrom…iPad is in.

Over to Walmart, JCP, Sears etc…what iPad?

It’s just not about the cool touchscreen display. There have been a number of tablets over the years. The most I’ve seen of them is probably in a pediatrician’s office. iPad is far far away from becoming mainstream and transforming retail.

It’s a niche device for niche players with niche capabilities.

Let’s bring out an iPad-like, flexible folding device that can fit in an associate’s pocket and can take a 10 foot fall without missing a beat…then we are talking. Oh yes, and at a price point that doesn’t pinch the department’s numbers.

Lisa Carver
Guest
Lisa Carver
11 years 15 days ago
There’s a good deal of discussion regarding the iPad’s ability to show catalogs, support personal shoppers, and customize pieces on the floor; however, most people, particularly the audience that Gap and others target, aren’t that patient and they will walk if what they’re looking for isn’t on the shelf. Is the iPad ideal for auto showrooms, furniture retailers or computer and home audio? Absolutely. Think about the possibilities for snagging car buyers for example. Salesmen could show options and promotions via their iPads from outside car lots without prospects venturing into high pressure showrooms. Furniture retailers the same. (Perceived) first mover advantage, battery life, apps, profile, cool factor and the increasing fandom around Apple’s brand are giving the iPad traction right now; however, the novelty could be fleeting and is completely dependent on the apps … just like it’s big sister, the iPhone. Price, connectivity, usability and availability are all Achilles’ heels and other tablets are moving into the market this year that have lower price points and familiar Windows-based features. Remember in-store video screens… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 14 days ago

It has the potential to be a unique technology, but the lack of a camera and the lack of a true network support (since AT&T is overwhelmed) may lead to a lack of interest.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
11 years 14 days ago

Every few months or maybe a little longer the next newest, greatest product hits the market with a marketing campaign blitz that makes one wonder what the product does not do because the campaigns make you think it will solve everything but world hunger. It won’t. That is being left to the next generation of “latest and greatest.”

OK. Sarcasm is done. Each generational product is one step closer to what we think to be the ultimate. Then we find the flaws and wait for the next generation. Certainly we are improving. I am enjoying watching this from the sidelines as I ponder which new version of the Blackberry or iPhone I should purchase.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 13 days ago

Well, I am using one right now so I can confirm that it is revolutionalizing my life.

Brian Legate
Guest
Brian Legate
11 years 12 days ago

“But what concerns me more than anything about a store environment is ruggedness.” – Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research

Ruggedness is a big factor especially in grocery. We see things break due to employee abuse. In addition functionality that adds value/improves processes for operations is equally important.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 7 days ago

I am using my iPad right now to write this. It has changed my life and will continue to be impactful to the industry.

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