Late last month, the Apple iPad quietly celebrated a decade of existence, marking 10 years since it began its game-changing journey to dominate the tablet world.
From a lukewarm reception in 2010 to one of the most sought-after consumer products, the iPad has basically revolutionised the way people work and play.
Few sectors have been quite so impacted by this device as retail.
A decade after Steve Jobs first showcased the iPad on stage, iPads can be found across the retail industry – at the Point of Sale, in the hands of associates, in the warehouse, and in the changeroom.
Here’s a quick recap of how the iPad reshaped retail.
A high-demand product
Other than the iPhone, there are few electronics products which elicit quite as much interest and anticipation as the latest release iPad.
Each year, its newest incarnation is heavily publicised and widely covered in the press. For consumers, it’s a product they can’t wait to get their hands on. They’re keen to know, see and test what each new version can do.
The sales figures reflect this device’s overwhelming popularity. By the time Apple stopped revealing specific iPad sales numbers in 2018, more than 400 million units of the various generations had been sold.
In the process, Apple established a dominant market share that continues to account for almost a third of all global tablet sales.
Perhaps the greatest impact the iPad has offered retail is at the checkout, where it’s often the favoured device for mobile Point of Sale.
Easy to use and supported by a range of POS apps, the iPad allows retailers to take the checkout to their customer. This lightweight tablet has effectively replaced the legacy point of sale terminals with an affordable streamlined device.
It’s given retailers greater options, more flexibility, improved efficiency and even reduced the bottom line due to its competitive price point.
Whether it’s a loyalty sign-up kiosk or a digital catalogue, the iPad’s potential as a customer kiosk quickly became clear from the outset.
This is a device that can run any number of apps, be easily locked to kiosk mode and quickly send data to the Cloud.
Positioned instore, it is accessible and simple to use. Its look complements the feel of most stores and the huge range of software tailored to it allows it to perform an array of tasks.
It can be set up to seek feedback (customer surveys), offer and gather loyalty information, run digital catalogues, or simply act as a product display.
With the arrival of augmented reality, iPads began to take on a new role. Now they can illustrate to customers how a product might look on them or in their environment without even trying it on.
Soon they began rolling out at big-name retailers in makeup departments and inside changerooms. In addition, they showcase products and looks that aren’t necessarily available instore, can summon sales associates when help is required or even suggest accompanying items.
Back of house
iPads have made their presence felt in warehouses and behind the scenes too. Due to their mobility, they can easily be carried around to cross-check shipments, orders and stock levels.
Meanwhile, in the hands of sales associates, they prove an invaluable selling tool. Sales staff can use iPads to access up-to-the-minute stock levels, social media and additional product information.
Shopify explains Apple was one of the first retailers to offer every employee an iPad to use as part their customer service role.
Ultimately this allowed staff to feel valued and empowered, but it also improved their service level as well.
In fact, late last year, Zebra Technologies conducted a survey that found 66 per cent of retail associates believed if they were equipped with tablets, they could provide better customer service and improve the shopping experience.
The final word
Since iPads first hit the shop floor 10 years ago, their influence has been profound. They may just be one of a number of high-end tablets now available, but without a doubt, they have been instrumental in reshaping the retail sphere.
With a decade under their belt and so many retail applications for their use, they have proved game-changing retail technology in an era of industry revolution.