Let's face it:
Retail stores can be harsh environments for tablets. Employees - and even customers - get their hands on these toys, and often don't take the same care as they might with their personal devices. Tablets are expected to stand up to constant use over an extended workday, often lasting twelve hours or longer. For these reasons and many more, manufacturers are targeting the retail environment with rugged tablet computers specifically designed for the mobile space.
Brick and mortar retailers that use or want to use mobile solutions such as tablets know that consumer-grade products may not stand up to the rigors of the business environment. The return-on-investment (ROI) might not be justified if the device breaks sooner than expected. So in the spirit of enterprise-grade, durable products, here are some of the benefits of rugged tablet computers, and just a few of the new players in this fast growing space.
Depending on the type of retail environment, durable tablets may fill multiple roles in a POS system. Some stores, including kiosks, pop-up retailers, and market stalls, will use mobile devices almost exclusively. Others may augment desktop computers and other point of sale hardware with these portable tablets. Here are some of the reasons to add a rugged tablet computer to your arsenal.
1. Replace pen and paper.
The business community has talked about going paperless for many years, but the retail store presents a unique opportunity for both owners and customers. Instead of printing a receipt, which requires the customer to sign the piece of paper, why not move the whole process to a more rugged tablet specifically designed for the retail setting?
Handwriting recognition capabilities on mobile devices have improved immensely; by recording a customer signature digitally, time and resources are saved. Most consumers are happy with an electronic receipt, but for those requesting a hard copy the thermal printer can serve as a backup.
2. Help employees sell
A recent report found that 30% of respondents planned to provide store associates with tablets to enhance and improve the sales process. Instead of keeping employees tethered to desktop computers or other information sources, supplying your staff with tablet computers sets them free to serve customers anywhere in the store.
Many tablet offer WiFi and options for mobile broadband, giving retailers the option of tapping into an in-store network. And the opportunities are endless when it comes to sales processes: videos, product demos, searches for out-of-stock merchandise. Tablets help workers immediately solve problems for customers, and a satisfied consumer is often ready to buy.
3. Expedite customer checkout
We recently explored how lines at the retail point of sale can discourage and frustrate customers. Today's rushed consumers want to make selections in a retail store, purchase them, and get on to the next thing. That's where rugged tablet computers can make a big splash: by adding POS software and magnetic stripe credit card readers, the tablet computer is elevated to the status of a portable cash register.
Need some examples?
Nordstom has integrated tablets for retail employees to expedite checkout and customer service procedures. These Internet-enabled tablets fill the dual role of allowing workers to search available stock and complete credit card transactions without forcing customers to stand in line at cash registers.
Another prominent example is way Apple uses its iPad tablets at Apple Stores all over the world. Employees are freed from the tether of desktop POS hardware and software and can complete the transaction wherever the customer is. For a recent example of this use of tablets by Apple in the Apple Store, see our recent article on Black Friday 2012 (link below).
More security for tablet solutions
Consumers have indicated a desire for increased security in mobile point of sale solutions. In addition to securing the data transmitted to and from the tablet via wireless, retailers may be looking for a way to physically lock down the device. Especially for those businesses focusing on the self-service market via kiosks, offering customers a connection that doesn't require a human's presence may be the perfect solution. “The self-service market is exploding thanks to the innovation of the iPad,” says Greg Carlson, president and CEO of Block and Company, the parent company of MMF Kiosk.
And that's where the Rhino Elite Series tablet comes into play. This lockable enclosure can be mounted on a table stand and accommodates an additional cable lock for added security. The enclosure won't interfere with wireless connections from the device, includes a cut-out for the power cord so the device stays powered at all times, and has an opening for a magnetic stripe credit card reader.
For both consumers and retail professionals, tablet computing is here to stay. As manufacturers create more rugged tablet computers and other products to enhance the use of tablets like the ones described above, tablet devices are likely to play an even bigger part in the retail environment.
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