By David Harouche
Founder and president, Multimedia Plus
Over the past few years, it has become clear that the iPad is the tablet of choice for retailers. It started being used for mobile POS and placing online orders for customers while in-store, and has arguably become one of the fastest growing platforms. Due to its stability, ease of use, and popularity with developers, customized iPads apps are becoming widely used by global retail brands and are providing management with a valuable communications tool.
The future of this technology in retail will be the use of customized apps that work in tandem with existing software and hardware as the method of choice for communicating with associates on everything from product knowledge to all levels of training. The ability to quickly and easily translate an app into multiple languages provides a unique opportunity for the industry on an international scale.
What is shaping the future of iPad apps and what does the future look like?
High-quality visuals = high impact
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Communications work best when there are strong visuals. iPads allow for high-quality video and audio, allowing for great apps to be created. An iPad will provide a rich media experience that gives associates selling support by providing instant access to product information and specs. There is no need for adding sound cards or worrying about how video content will play. Photos, videos, reviews and other information can be obtained for a customer quickly, easily, and at a low cost.
The eco-friendly factor that saves green
iPads are slowly, but surely, replacing printed materials as a form of communication for both in-house and wholesale. Companies are reporting that by avoiding printing of product catalogs and other materials they can save approximately $300,000 yearly. The monetary savings, environmentally friendly aspect of not printing thousands of pages of materials, and the ability to store all information in one convenient place contributes to the future of apps replacing books of information. The apps are designed to offer a fully branded experience, can incorporate video and other images, and are easily transported. Unlike printed materials, the content in an app can quickly be updated remotely so all levels of users are interacting with the correct and latest information.
Control of content
Unlike an intranet site, companies are using iPad apps to deliver curated information to only the people who are required to act on it. People are accustomed to receiving only the information they want or need in their daily lives. Similar to a news aggregator that provides information on entertainment, international news, or sports, so too can companies provide customized information to the users that will benefit the most. This is especially useful for associates that have been working for the company for different lengths of time, or work in different departments and require specific types of training.
Action on the message
Unlike email, management will know that associates received the communication, and can acknowledge execution of tasks by completed training programs. The app can track an associate’s participation and allow field managers to drive performance by having full visibility of their team’s results. These results can be obtained from anywhere in the world, at any time of the day, in real time. Adjustments to training can be made efficiently based on region or general training results.
Leveraging app-based video play
App based video programs that reside on the iPad provide high definition video to each store without streaming. This is possible from any device, on various platforms, without any delays, even where bandwidth is limited. No buffering or streaming is required because the app is locally installed and resides in the iPad software. Associates are able to quickly and easily maximize down time to learn about a new procedure through accessing supporting sales videos. A complete understanding of non-streaming video and its benefits can help retailers bring associates to the same functionality level as mobile customers.
The future of the iPad in retail lies with the customization of branded apps that provide the best of what the technology has to offer. The benefits of low-bandwidth video, overall cost savings, eco-friendly distribution, flexibility to update and change content, re-use of existing content, ability to translate into multiple languages, and more, will be one of the major technology transformations of 2014 and beyond.
David Harouche is Founder and President of Multimedia Plus, a provider of learning and communications solutions and a resource for market intelligence.
(Photo by Bert Kimura.)
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