Tablets: A ‘Game Changer’ for Retailers

Imagine a store where a salesperson can check whether a product is in stock, look up answers to customers’ questions, play a demo video, view a slideshow of alternative product configurations or colors, accept a customer’s payment and schedule a delivery – all without leaving the customer’s side on the sales floor.

Today, tablet computers – with features including high-powered processors, wireless broadband connectivity and large screens designed to display rich media content – make all this possible and more. As a tool for retailers, tablets have the potential to transform the industry, changing the way stores do business and enhancing the shopping experience for customers.

Interest in tablets is growing across all types of businesses – results of a Forrester Research survey released earlier this year showed that one in four large enterprises were planning to implement or had implemented tablet computers as part of their technology strategies. By 2015, the tablet market in the U.S. alone is expected to generate more than $7 billion in revenue, according to Yankee Group analysts.

While some companies in recent years have experimented with the use of consumer-grade tablet devices, their lack of enterprise-ready features have held back full-scale deployment. Today, purpose-built tablets such as the Toughpad A1 and the Toughpad B1 – with rugged design, security embedded at the hardware level, enterprise-focused app stores offering applications customized for business needs, and mobile device management tools allowing centralized control of devices – offer all the power and usability of consumer tablet devices but are built specifically for enterprise use, allowing adoption across all types of enterprises to shift into high gear.

Tablets have the potential to be a “game changer” in retail, where they can empower shoppers and sales staff alike, said Joe Skorupa, editor in chief of Mobile Enterprise and Retail Info Systems News, in a special supplement on tablets in retail published in June. He noted that smartphones and other high-powered mobile devices have become a common sight in customers’ hands, but retailers have been slower to catch on; however, tablets have the potential to level the playing field and “provide sales associates with the same amount of fire power.”

On the sales floor, tablets can provide sales associates unprecedented ability to enhance customers’ shopping experiences, by giving them on-the-spot access to everything from product specs to photos of alternate colors and videos of the product in action. Tablets’ screens of up to 10 inches make them the perfect fit for sharing this content with customers, and their other functionalities allow for a multitude of other uses including serving as a mobile point of sale system. Devices with daylight-viewable screens such as the Toughpad tablets can even be used in outdoor sales environments like car lots or home and garden centers.

Even outside of customer transactions, tablets can streamline business processes by allowing for real-time access to sales or inventory data – for example, a manager can instantly view how much of an item is left on the shelf of a warehouse miles away without ever leaving the store. Cameras on next-generation tablets can be used as barcode or QR code scanners, and they can be equipped with accessories such as printers or card readers for usage across a retail enterprise.

Today’s availability of tablets built tough enough for the sales floor means we’re at the brink of a transformation in retail. As a tool to empower sales staff and to enhance customers’ shopping experiences, tablets have countless possibilities to be a true “game changer” for retailers.