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GUEST OPINION iPad and the future of retailing

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Frank Lord, VP EMEA, ATG outlines why he believes the iPad will be the first of many devices to transform the UK retail sector

In the fast-paced world of technology, change happens at an extraordinary pace. Trend setting companies out there from Apple and Google to Microsoft are investing heavily in R&D bringing new products to market at phenomenal speed so any player looking to seriously capitalise on the innovations needs to have their finger firmly on the pulse.

This need for speed is especially acute in the retail space which was not only hit hard by the recession but is undergoing a period of transition as retailers embrace the internet and the world of online shopping.

However, retail is more than going into a shop, purchasing online or browsing from a Smartphone. It is about shopping anywhere, anytime, in the way that best suits the consumers needs, which is why launches like that of Apple’s iPad is going to radically change the way the retail sector embraces technology.

Like most new product releases from Apple, the iPad has generated a huge amount of interest from consumer and business users alike. The IT giant sold two million iPads within the first two months of its launch and judging from the sheer size of queues outside Apple stores across the country, the device has captured the imagination of the UK consumer.

Ignore the iPad at your peril

Sitting between the smartphone and laptop, the iPad gives users a new way to stay connected when on the go. Although some have dismissed the product as nothing more than an over-sized iPhone, reviews have been positive with many liking the ability to easily browse full-sized web pages. Indeed, many consumers have found it to be a pleasing device to use, the user interface with its large application icons and on-screen controls activated by the touch of a finger make it very easy to manage.

Organisations have been quick to capitalise on the opportunity this new product presents, current estimates claim that more than 5,000 apps have been specifically created for the iPad. This figure is expected to rise significantly in coming months as the UK market embraces the wealth of opportunities presented by the device.

For retailers, the iPad is set to put cross-channel strategies to test like never before so it is vital organisations prepare for the potential impact the device will have on UK retailing. Below are some key issues worth considering.

5 ways the iPad is set to shake-up the retail sector

1) A catalyst for mobile retailing

Mobile commerce is already hugely popular but some consumers have expressed a reluctance to shop using mobile devices because of the small screen size of devices. In a survey of 1,000 UK consumers conducted last year we found 29% would be more inclined to embrace mobile commerce if smart phone manufacturers offered devices with larger screens. The iPad addresses these concerns so those retailers that haven’t already embraced the mobile channel need to act fast if they are to make the most of the opportunities it presents.

2) Changing the in-store experience

The iPad is likely to have a significant impact on the ways in which retailers interact with consumers online but also has the potential to change interactions in-store. For instance, retailers may want to equip members of staff with iPads so that if a customer has a query about a product that isn’t in stock they can quickly find the information needed online while walking around the shop.

3) Keep consumers ‘appy

Although there’s an argument that creating an app specifically for the iPad is unnecessary since shoppers can access the complete web with ease, those that chose to go down the app route will enjoy many benefits. For instance, developing an iPad app means retailers can make use of the devices motion sensors to deliver an experience consumers won’t get on other platforms.

4) Demand for greater interactivity

Some retailers are making good use of video content online in a bid to offer a dynamic shopping experience but many will need to do more. With increasing numbers of people spending time online using the iPad, expectations of e-commerce sites are higher than ever so retailers that don’t make the mark are likely to lose market share to others.

5) A greater battle for attention

Retailers have long struggled to grab the attention of consumers while they browse online but with the iPad this challenge becomes even greater. Unlike a PC or even a laptop, consumers could be using the device in any location and doing many other activities at the same time such as watching TV or travelling. Retailers therefore need to ensure they offer a captivating and highly personalised shopping experience if they are to keep consumers coming back for more.

Commerce anywhere

Mobile technologies are playing a vital role in revitalising and expanding the retail space. The ability to shop on any device, browse stock availability and click through to purchase at the touch of a button make mobile and particularly the iPad, an incredibly compelling proposition.

The iPad has generated overwhelming interest all over the world and retailers need to make sure they are capitalising on the opportunities this device and many others like it, present. The technology has the potential to create a brand new way to sell to the consumer and we urge retailers to explore how they can integrate the device into the sales strategies to enhance customer service and in turn, transform the way in which we shop.

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