5 Ways Tablets Can Help Retail in 2013

In 2011, Gartner famously called the tablet the "fastest growing electronic device in history." In 2012, the iPad mini added an extra level of accessibility. Now, in 2013, tablets are firmly embedded into the lives of the mainstream. The change from "must-have" gift to "must-understand" retail disruptor is one of the largest trends impacting retail today. This article looks at five concrete steps to help retailers benefit from this mass adoption.

1. Recognize the value of "t-commerce"

Tablet owners are widely regarded as the most desirable and valuable demographic for digital marketers. They have higher household incomes and are often Generation X or Baby Boomers — so, younger and wealthier than traditional PC users. If tablet owners are objects of desire for retailers, iPad owners are their dreams come true.

According to eMarketer, iPads are used by 76.4 percent of tablet owners and account for an even larger percentage of online purchases. A recent study by RichRelevance's Shopping Insights showed that iPad owners spend an average of $158 per order, versus $105 per order for owners of other mobile devices. Another stat from the study shows the conversion rate at 1.5 percent for iPad owners compared to 0.057 percent for users of other mobile devices.

2. Improve your mobile application and mobile site experience

Deciding between an app or a mobile-optimized site? The fundamental question to ask yourself is: how do you make your customers shopping experience as pleasurable and convenient as possible? With this in mind, selecting an app or a browser-based option requires investigation. I recommend looking at your customer profile and habits, and your choice of distribution.

For example, Group FMG recently worked with two clients in the UK, Marks & Spencer and ASDA (Walmart's UK arm) on their mobile app development. M&S Home customers have a high disposable income and were shopping for top-of-the-line home goods. Styling, quality and superior customer experience for their loyal shoppers were of prime importance.

The resulting digital catalog iPad app was designed with this in mind. The app was featured number one in The Guardian's app list and garnered hundreds of thousands of downloads in the week it launched. ASDA's customers are a much broader demographic and so use a variety of mobile devices. Email is the main distribution channel, and thus HTML5 was the selected platform for the Christmas Catalog, since it could be viewed across multiple browsers on both Android and Apple devices.

3. Deploy tablets at retail

If 2011 and 2012 were all about consumer adoption of tablets, the trend in 2013 will be tablet adoption by retailers. Apple started this trend by having its sales associates roam free, allowing customers to buy their products from any location within the store. Now this concept is hitting the mainstream, as mobile POS systems are becoming more accessible and retailers are upgrading their Wi-Fi systems to speed up mobile commerce processing.

A recent study by IHL Group noted that one third of all retailers were planning to use tablets or mobile devices in stores. This massive capital expenditure is being driven by the need to improve in-store shopping experiences and to integrate customer touch-points.

Customer data, including profiles, contact information, preferences and buying history are being gathered and combined with e-commerce and other sales channel data. We have noticed an increasing demand from clients to build custom tablet apps for sales associates, allowing them to input customer data around an in-store experience. This data is then seamlessly integrated into the client's CRM machinery and used for email, loyalty programs, social media strategy and customer insight.

4. Entertain and engage your customers
Marketing has shifted from "bombarding" customers with brand messaging to customers "selecting" who and what information they want to engage with. This gives customers the power of choice. This is dramatically apparent on tablets, whose owners are known as "couch and pillow" shoppers because usage tends to happen in the evening, outside of traditional PC shopping hours.

This leisurely search for entertainment, goods and services lends itself to a more lifestyle-driven customer journey with an appreciation for art direction, customer reviews and a curated shopping experience. A great example is the Net-A-Porter weekly Magazine iPad app. The app seamlessly fuses videos from fashion shows, travel destinations, music and culture all designed to inspire customers.

5. Think social integration
Social's value is an important part of the decision-making journey, combining peer-to-peer recommendations, awareness generation and driving direct traffic. Integrating social can be as simple as adding share buttons and customer reviews to mobile applications or it can include more in-depth tactics such as shoppable and shareable video. Target's shoppable video "Falling for You" showcased more than 100 products in a reality-style series that consumers could be added to their shopping carts and shared with friends — even while watching the video. It was an interesting blend of content, commerce and social design meant to interact seamlessly with the iPad's touchscreen.

As we enter 2013, it is clear that the tablet has added yet another channel to the retail mix. The 2014 success stories are sure to come from marketers that embrace this new opportunity and help make it even easier for their customers to buy from and interact with today's digital-savvy brands.

Jim Anstey is a New York-based senior vice president of digital solutions at Group FMG, a provider of content and commerce solutions for global clients.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds