Retailers take to tablets

April 11, 2012

The promise of tablets is beginning to be realized as a sales, marketing and operations tool.

Doctors may say “take two tablets and call me in the morning.” Yet retailers also use tablets—to stay relevant with omni-channel shoppers, and to drive sales and their image as innovators.  It’s making them better in shoppers’ eyes.

Nearly six out of ten consumers surveyed by AisleBuyer (57%) think retailers that use tablets and other mobile devices in place of cash registers are more innovative than stores without this capability.  More than one-fifth of shoppers (22%) have been to a store where associates do this.

Some of those experiences likely occurred in Apple stores, where customers can be checked out by any associate on the floor, or even check themselves out with the right app and a scan. 

“The cash register has a new rival.  We’re seeing increased interest from retailers in supplementing and potentially replacing traditional registers with a tablet-based mobile POS or store associate solution,” said Andrew Paradise, founder and CEO, AisleBuyer. “Equipped with a tablet, store employees can…[also] share product information, show video demos and suggest related products.”

The survey also found that:
•    64% of shoppers feel store associates are most helpful when on the sales floor, not behind a register
•    41% prefer tablets over registers to make room for additional merchandise

Already, some shoppers at Macy’s and Nordstrom can choose between interacting with a tablet, an app or live salespeople on the floor.  F3 feels that staffs empowered by tablets could offer shoppers the best of both worlds:  a personalized experience based on how they express their shopping mission to a salesperson, and access to alternative items.  Well-trained salespeople could expediently suggest companion items and build transactions.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with tablets.  A MediaPost survey of 1,500 moms showed 47% intended to “be in line to pick up the newest iPad tablet for $499 despite tough financial times.”  These moms use the tablet as their primary screen—31% of moms with tablets estimate they use their tablets more than 10 hours per week and their computers less than two hours per week.

Moreover, moms prefer to hand down their old tablet to the kids to avoid fighting for tablet time.  The study additionally found:
•    97% of moms surveyed purchased something on the tablet within the past month
•    More than 64% had more than 20 apps on their tablets, used largely for shopping, cooking and gaming

While tasks shift towards tablets that used to be largely done on computers, the demographics of owners are also changing.  According to NPD Group’s Tablet Adoption and Insights Report, more than 40% of iPad owners have $100,000+ annual household income compared with 26% of non-iPad owners.  But buyers at the end of 2011 are 50% likelier to earn under $45,000 per year and 33% likelier to be younger than 34.

A few insights about younger tablet owners from a lengthy list provided by Magid Generational Strategies at Frank N. Magid Associates, in a piece for MediaPost Engage:  Slightly more than half of all tablet owners are Millennials. One in three new tablet owners are Millennial women.  Four out of ten Gen Y tablet owners regularly cook or bake while using their tablet.