Tablets and Retail: If You Build It Will They Come?

Everyone is moving toward incorporating tablets into their larger mobile and digital strategies.  65 percent of Fortune 100 companies plan on it. And whether or not they execute on it in the near-term, the fact that they’re talking about it means something.  But this is a wild new frontier, just as the emergence of the web was a new and wild in the 90s.  Getting the strategy right means digging a little deeper into what you design and why you design it.

First and foremost, it’s about the application and the context in which it will find itself used. Retailers and designers need to think of the application in terms of how it can fundamentally change the retail dynamic.  The application needs to be more than an interesting novelty, it needs to address the unspoken, contextual realities of the people selling products. The application and tablets need to be indispensable to store associates. That means thinking about how the device will be used on the sales floor – will it detract from the interpersonal interaction or add to them; will it make the job of the sales associate more difficult physically as they go about their day with a device in hand; will it be an improvement or a hindrance?

The application and the device may be interesting or novel, but will they help customer/shopper interactions?  The application may help from an operational standpoint, but it may not be something the sales person wants to use. In fact, it may get in the way.  So understanding the culture of shopping and the larger context is the first step in developing a useful tool.

Second, know well before launch how the app and the device will factor into your back-end infrastructure.  How good a job does the provider and/or developer of supporting enterprise efforts? Can the company infrastructure accommodate the new technology and everything it brings with it?  How much will it cost to integrate it with the existing system?

Third and last, decide the platform with more than technology in mind. Think about context.  One strategy is to focus on applications that will run on any tablet through the browser.  Be platform agnostic.  But let’s take a moment to examine the reality of tablet sales.  Apple has an early lead in design, ease of use and developer participation.  It has brand fanaticism and is a focal point of discussion between people, including sales staff and shoppers.  It owns the category, just as Kleenex owns tissue. It certainly wouldn’t be wise to dismiss Google’s open platform model, forget about the brand equity of Motorola, or ignore the weight of Microsoft, but it’s important to think about how the device and platform will factor into brand image and the sales process.

By Gavin

Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m afraid that you are describing a solution looking for a problem. First it should come a problem needed for a solution, and then a solution which should be cost-effective and which objetivelly improves part of the operations of the employee.

    Fashion doesn’t suit quite well with technical analysis. That is the reason because a lot of desk of fortune 500 companies still use… windows XP.

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