How tablets and touchscreens are integral to the in-store experience
Omnichannel retailing is no longer a choice for retailers; instead, it is a necessity to offer consumers the convenience they want, on the devices they want, according to a new guide, "The Convergence of the Connected Consumer and Omni-channel Retailing," sponsored by Frank Mayer and Associates.
In a remarkably short period of time, technologies such as tablets and touchscreens have become indispensable to a growing number of people. The challenge for retailers is to incorporate these new technologies with their existing sales channels in order to create a seamless omnichannel experience for shoppers.
Tablets are an increasingly popular option for both consumers and retailers, due to their relatively low price point and powerful computing capabilities, according to the guide.
Tablets have utility to both customers and in-store personnel. For customers, the tablet serves as an extension of the website and as a tool for comparison shopping. The challenge that retailers need to overcome is when a shopper finds a product they like and then goes to see if another vendor offers it for less.
For the salesperson, tablets can be a powerful customer service and line-busting tool. Retailers that have developed a specific tablet application can provide more information than simple access to the website. A tablet application can integrate with inventory management, giving the salesperson access to the customer's loyalty program and connecting the salesperson with similar stores across the country, as well as corporate headquarters.
"The benefit of a tablet at retail is that it allows for a more dynamic, interactive and convenient sales experience for both the customer and salesperson. Additional product information and enhanced product offerings are available to complete the transaction without the need to spend time at a sales desk or in a checkout line," said David Anzia, the SVP of sales at FMA.
A tablet also can serve as a POS system — an arrangement made famous by the Apple retail stores. The patented store design eliminated a traditional checkout counter and instead, Apple associates roam the floor with enhanced iPod Touches and process payments directly on the devices. Since customers no longer have to wait in line, the perception is that the checkout time is much faster.
Touchscreens also have become key components to the in-store experience. According to the guide, they come in two forms: kiosks and digital signage.
Touchscreens encourage interactivity and engagement on the part of the user. People are becoming more used to them, thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and tablets.
"Touchscreens are really changing technology," said Chad Wagner, industry marketing and PR manager for retail store solutions at Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, a provider of technology solutions. "People expect it now. I've seen them walk up to a kiosk with a keyboard and try to touch the screen, and get frustrated when that doesn't work."
One of the advantages of both digital signage and kiosks is that the technology is provided by the retailer. Instead of having to depend on the customer having a smartphone or tablet, the retailer installs the kiosk or digital signage and offers its use to the customer. With the technology requiring no previous buy-in by the customer, it becomes a more passive form of marketing — in turn boosting its effectiveness and reach.
But in order for interactive technologies to have an impact on a retailer's bottom line, it must be curated to specifically meet the needs of the end-users. Jeff Dickey, managing director of the OmniChannel Marketing Project, a consortium of stakeholders dedicated to understanding the future of retailing, said that in the last 10 years things have gone through a fundamental shift.
"We're about to enter a new phase, and those who embrace it will do much better than those that don't," he said. "Omnichannel retailing is all about creating a one-to-one relationship with millions of people. Because there are so many touchpoints and so much data, and communication is so much easier, retailers can offer what feels like personal attention to customers, keeping them coming back time and time again."
Read more about multichannel retailing.
Companies: Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.