What do you think is the best thing about shopping? If you are not a woman, it’s like a mission to you. However, women treat it as therapy and they have given it a name- “Retail Therapy”. So if these are some of the best things about shopping, what are the worst? Well, how about the queuing in traffic to actually get to the store in the first place or the driving around looking for an elusive parking space? Maybe it is driving all the way to the shops only to be told the item you specifically wanted is no longer in stock. Or perhaps the curse of the queue when you actually arrive at the checkout or when you are waiting for a member of staff to help you with a question.
The fact is regardless of whether you love or loathe the whole shopping experience, modern retailers know that in such a competitive market they have to do everything in their power to make your experience when you visit their store as easy, straightforward and enjoyable as possible. Retailers who fail to do this know that consumers will vote with their feet and simply take their business elsewhere. Modern technology has meant that retailers can now enhance the experience their customers receive more than ever before. Many retailers feel overwhelmed by rapid advances in technology that are outstripping companies' ability to adopt or absorb emerging capabilities.
Differentiation in the retail store has never been more important than it is today. Consumers have more shopping options than ever before — from mass merchandisers offering one-stop discount shopping to large and respected department stores, and the convenience of the 24x7 global online market place. Most business owners are already aware of the benefits of having a user-friendly website that is easily viewed and accessed by smart phones and tablets. Now, many of these same companies are finding fresh and unexpected ways to use technology in stores, while helping to broaden the boundaries of what a brick-and-mortar store is capable of. To date, self-service implementations in a retail environment have primarily consisted of informational wall-mounted kiosks or kiosk stations, as well as self-service check-out stands. With informational kiosks distributed throughout the sales floor, shoppers can get on-the-spot answers to questions as well as other helpful information. For example, a scan of an item can return the price, while guided menus can help locate a particular product — all without the assistance of a store associate.
In 2011, to mark the 10th anniversary of Apple’s retail store, the company launched the Apple store 2.0, revolutionizing the in-store experience. Basically, every product in Apple Store now had its own iPad bearing additional information, interactively. The paper placards were gone. Shoppers could touch them to get additional information. Retail is all about touch. People examine objects they desire as much with their hands as their eyes. Shopper’s first look, and then they touch. The new iPad stations let people not only touch the products they desired but use touch to get more information. The tablet revolution had finally reached retail, proving itself to be an essential tool in a new way of doing business. According to the latest research, by 2014 more than one in three internet users in America would have a tablet device, and 52 percent of those would prefer to shop online using their tablets. However, this has not discouraged retailers from adopting tablets to enhance the in-store shopping experience.
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In Rio de Janerio, at the “Gas Station of the Future” a Cisco Cius tablet is available which connects customers to specialists in real-time via TelePresence, a videoconferencing solution used to gather information on maintenance activities and look up addresses in the city. Puma implemented tablets as interactive catalogs, personal shopping assistants and point-of-sale systems. It has developed a customized platform to step up the in-store experience. In Shanghai, China at the Shanghai Lotus Supermarket, SK Telecom has started a trial of SmartCart. A Wi-Fi enabled tablet PC is mounted on a shopping cart which helps customers find product and discount information linked to their current location. According to a recent survey, tablet adoption for retailers is ‘no longer a question’. The survey indicated that 31 percent had plans testing tablets in their stores this year, 22 percent had already begun such testing and six percent had already deployed them at their stores.
A survey conducted by Motorola Solutions says that retail, hospitality, and field service industries are looking forward to replacing the old, clunky and fixed point-of-sale systems with mobile point of sale systems. App-makers and entrepreneurs are taking a run at replacing many point-of-sale (POS) systems with cheaper apps and accessories that can be run on the popular tablets. With the adaptation of Square and VeriFone point-of-sale (POS) services, there is an emergence of the concept of‘t-commerce’ or tablet-commerce.
The adoption of tablets by retailers is a good decision for a number of reasons; using tablets as additional POS frees up floor space and customers no longer have to wait in long queues. Consumers also view retailers who use tablets as being more advanced and innovative. Additionally, an employee with a tablet in hand is at an advantage to help the average customers, who are more and more likely to have access to information on their smartphone or have researched their purchase on a tablet before entering a store.
It won’t be long before the majority of retailers put up tablets in their stores. Have you been to a store were they have adopted tablets? How was your experience? Please share your reaction in the comments section.
Somaditya Sinha is a graduate of the M.S. in Information Management program at Syracuse University. He is interested in management of large data sets and the design of data management systems. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @somsinha86.