Portrait of young attractive woman using digital tablet

Retailers are increasingly using iPads in innovative ways to engage customers and personalise experiences.

Following the launch of the Apple iPad back in 2010, tablets were widely touted as technology which could revolutionise the retail industry. But while iPads quickly become a common sight behind Australian store counters, that’s largely where most of them tended to stay, often serving simply as devices for staff to send emails, or surf the net.

Recent times, however, have seen large retail organisations of all stripes find a range of more innovative applications for iPads, in and around the shop floor.

Large-scale roll-outs are only effective when the technology works all of the time but supporting devices in-house can be a challenging proposition for retailers, particularly if the technology is spread across multiple locations.

Broken or malfunctioning devices can leave customers with an unfavourable impression of the business and brand. Retailers also risk staff developing negative sentiments about a tablet program if they feel under pressure to act as technology trouble shooters for devices which are poorly configured or malfunction frequently.

A growing number of companies are choosing to ensure the availability of instore iPads by taking advantage of Apple deployment programs or starting to use self-service, as well as extending single sign-on.

Here are a few ways iPads are being deployed to enhance the customer experience and add value in the retail environment.

Managing loyalty schemes

Discounts, freebies and other forms of special treatment are all vital weapons in the ongoing battle to keep customers coming back for more. The iPad can be the ideal platform for managing a customer loyalty scheme in the digital era.

It’s working for Qantas Frequent Flyer.  Members are able to collect 100 points per diner at 4000 participating restaurants nationwide. Rather than expecting venues to reconfigure their Point of Sale systems to record Qantas points transactions, the airline has issued every establishment with an iPad, dedicated to the purpose.

Sales and service on the shop floor

Asking for help in stores can be a hit and miss affair. Some employees have a wealth of product knowledge to share with customers, others not so much. iPads can be used to bridge the gap by putting catalogues and specifications at the fingertips of customer service staff out on the floor.

Furniture giant, Amart Furniture, has gone a step further. Its staff don’t only use iPads to help deal with customer enquiries in situ, they’re also able to employ them as Point of Sales devices. Being able to process transactions on the spot means bulky couches and coffee tables don’t have to be dragged to the register to be rung up, or customers asked to stand in a queue once they’ve made up their minds to buy.

Customer experience surveys

Getting a handle on how customers think and feel about the service they’ve received is critical for retailers which want to remain relevant in a world where comparison shopping is easy and competition cut throat. Making it as easy as possible for customers to provide feedback is the best way for businesses to ensure they receive plenty of it. Here in Australia, convenience store network 7-Eleven and clothing giant H&M are using iPads to ask the questions. Both chains have devices at the check-out which customers can use to rate their shopping experience before they leave the premises.

Strengthening security

Shrinkage is an issue for almost every retailer and minimising it can result in a boost to the bottom line. For service stations, that means finding ways to cut the incidence of customers filling up and driving off without paying. An iPad-based security solution developed by Perth start-up Scancam Industries is helping some Australian outlets to do so. Petrol theft was a $6 million problem in Western Australia in 2016; the equivalent of 100,000 drive-offs.

Licence plates are scanned at the bowser and within seconds the check-out operator is alerted via iPad if a motorist is a known offender and needs to be asked to pre-pay for their fuel. The Scancam system also generates incident reports, including video footage when drive-offs occur.

Keeping technology ticking

Internal IT departments can be ill equipped to handle the additional work involved with the set-up, deployment and maintenance of iPads in the field. Understandably, some may make attending to these tasks a lower priority than the more immediate demands of managing business critical systems in the head office.

The good news is that devices on the shop floor can be centrally managed using mobile device management solutions such as Jamf Pro, ensuring the latest product information is always readily available, up-to-date versions of the company apps are always installed, and the correct screensavers and desktop backgrounds are visible.

Any burden on IT teams or showroom managers is further reduced by the provision of mobile device management so that if the devices are left unattended for the public to use, it doesn’t result in them being full of undesired apps or images.  Retailers will benefit not just from convenient and secure authentication but confidence that their infrastructure is robust enough to cope in even the busiest periods.

Justin Krisko is the Sales Engineering Manager at JAMF.