4 New Ways to Use Retail Tablets

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

Tablets are game changers for small business owners seeking a more cost-effective way to handle retail sales transactions. But if that’s all you’re using these devices for, you’re missing out. There are a slew of other opportunities to deploy store tablets to improve your retail enterprise. Let’s take a peek.

1. Tablet Kiosks

Expand inventory without taking up another inch of space using tablet stands and mounts to create an “endless aisle.” Through this digital portal, customers can order out-of-stock items, look at options and upgrades, specify sizes and colors, or place special orders.

Store tablets can also be used as a new take on retail store displays. Research from the National Retail Federation Foundation found that two-thirds of Millennials and Gen-X shoppers use mobile devices to read product reviews in store; so do 40 percent of Baby Boomers. Putting tablets in the aisles makes it easy for customers to access the information they need to make buying decisions quickly. It’s also a great way to share product demos and testimonials from other buyers and users. And, if you’re into multi-tasking, you can use store tablets as signage to attract customers to sale racks or new merchandise.

Pro Tech Tip: “Ensure the tablets are protected, which means limiting access to only the Web page or app desired,” cautions Peter Han, Microsoft’s vice president of US OEM. For instance, Windows 8.1 devices feature a kiosk mode that limits tablet functionality in retail situations. Use the app locker feature in Windows Enterprise to block out system files and other apps on the device.

2. Market Research

“We use tablets to collect customer feedback in the hopes of catching issues before they end up on Yelp,” says Adi Bittan, co-founder and CEO of OwnerListens, an online reputation management company in Palo Alto, CA. Employees ask shoppers waiting to check out to make comments about their experience on the tablet. “Customers appreciate the mere fact that you cared enough to ask about their feedback. Even if they never actually leave you any feedback, they notice that you care. And if you change something based on their feedback, they notice it the next time they come in and get excited. We'll hear them tell a friend, ‘They changed that because of me.’ It's rewarding for people to play a part in improving something.” And yes, it often keeps them from complaining in a public forum.

3. Clienteling

This is just a fancy term for using customer data you already have (or can easily collect) to build a more personal sales experience for your customers. By gathering and accessing this information via store tablets, salespeople can use preferences, purchase history and more to help shoppers make decisions, steer them to complimentary items or let them know about special promotions.

“Customers will be better served by employees who can extend customer service into the aisle, checking inventory and prices,” says Russell Harty, senior vice president of Merchant Warehouse, a payment processing company in Boston. Outfit the tablet with a mobile card reader integrated with your POS system, and clerks can even take payment on the fly.

Pro Tip: “Retail tablets give employees the ability to multi-task from anywhere in the store,” Harty says. “An employee who is in-aisle stocking shelves can now serve a dual function, engaging with customers in a more meaningful way.”

4. Training

You can even use these devices to train your staff. Load product demonstration or procedure videos onto your own (or someone else’s) tablet to provide staff with initial instruction or a refresher course.

And don’t forget to give your team clear instructions on the proper use and care of store tablets. “If you don’t train employees to keep the customer engaged, they both could be on their tablets totally apart from each other,” cautions Bob Phibbs, the Coxsackie, NY�based Retail Doctor®. “A well-trained employee can use the technology to quickly answer questions and keep a sale moving. Retailers who are hands-off may be making it harder for a customer to be waited on.”

Choosing the Right Tablet for the Job

Tablets are cheaper than a lot of computers, but that doesn’t mean you want to replace them frequently. That’s why Han suggests choosing an “industrial-strength” device.

“Tablets like Panasonic’s Toughpad FZ-G1 are fully ruggedized, combining extra-strong Gorilla® Glass screens with enterprise-level security and even accessories such as docking stations and retail enclosures to protect devices,” he notes. “These features ensure the tablet will hold up to the daily abuse of being used by countless customers. Commercial-grade software like Windows Pro offers theft-deterrent software and data protection options, including the ability to remote wipe any sensitive data should the worst happen.”

Check out all our tablet options and find the one that’s perfect for your retail operation.

Start Reaping the Benefits

With this information in hand, you can trade in your old technology for a brand-spanking-new store tablet and start reaping the benefits.

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