Trending Toward Tablets

Mike Stinson, VP marketing, Motion Computing, Austin, Texas, mstinson@motioncomputing.com.

Today’s retail associates have more selling tools at their disposal than ever before — not the least of which is the increasingly popular tablet. The mobile device has taken not only front-of-house selling to new levels but has added efficiencies and enhanced employee productivity to back-of-house functions as well. Chain Store Age talked with Mike Stinson, VP marketing of Motion Computing, about the trend toward tablets.

What are some of the most prevalent uses of tablets in the retail environment?

The most obvious is assisted selling. For example, today’s customer may have a smartphone, will have done comparative shopping in advance of the store visit, and then will enter the store in search of a specific product. The tablet enables the associate to provide that customer with additional information and features.

How does the associate best utilize the tablet in that selling situation?

Imagine presenting that customer — via a media-rich tool with a 10-in. display — with product accessories, side-by-side comparisons, information about what inventory is in stock, what pricing specials might be in play, and what kinds of warranties or rebates are available. What’s more, the associate can swipe the customer’s loyalty card and see what additional value can be provided. 

Do you have a real-life example of a tablet being utilized for selling?

We have a retail furnishings customer currently involved in a tablet pilot. Using the tablet means that retailers’ sales associates don’t have to abandon customers to retrieve catalog information from the backroom. An associate can remain with the customer, pull up additional information about, for instance, a couch she is looking at, show the different colors the couch comes in, show various cushion selections and display accompanying pieces such as end tables.

In this scenario, the likelihood of completing the sale goes up and the average ticket increases as well.

What is generating the most interest among retailers?

No question that it’s the mobile POS, whether for line busting or personalized transactions. A major wireless carrier is using the tablet in its stores to reduce wait time and increase sales floor efficiency. High-end department stores use the tablet to allow associates to follow the sale through to transaction completion without passing the customer to another employee. Again, this is expected to increase the average revenue per transaction, as well as the close rate for each employee.

How widespread do you think the use of tablets will become?

Our numbers are showing at least 70% of retailers are evaluating tablets for deployment right now. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, though. There are so many different work flows in a store — selling, managing, security and more — but my prediction is that there will be at least one flow in every store using a tablet within the next 18 months.

Compare the PC-based tablet with other operating systems on the market today.

The Windows-based tablets have the advantage in ease of integration and deployment because they are running existing operating systems and applications. Because other operating systems are targeted at consumers, they may seem more user-friendly. But they are generally optimized for media consumption and not for the data crunching and multi-processing required in a retail business environment.

What are the security issues with regard to mobile payment transactions?

There are three-day seminars on this topic. But the long and short of it is there is nothing really unique about a mobile tablet payment processing function versus taking payment at a fixed terminal. Retailers should look for devices that come with integrated security features, such as the Trusted Platform Module and MagTek or Merchant Link’s built-in encryption, which provide secure information management and enhanced data and business protection.

There are also many software solutions, such as Computrace from Absolute Software.