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Tech for Your Store: The Third Screen

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BY CHRIS BURSLEM

Published in the June 2014 issue.

iPad to iFad?” That headline in USA Today neatly summed up recent media coverage of Apple’s second straight quarter of declining tablet sales.

But as a reflection of what is happening in the wider world, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Excluding the iPad, which seems to be struggling with price competition, sales of tablets are booming as consumers and businesses find more and more uses for the devices. Nowhere is this more the case than in retail, where tablets are emerging as the most important “screen” for online sales.

The 2013 holiday season turned out to be when “couch commerce” arrived. While smartphones were the place most people started their shopping journey, it was on tablets where the deal was clinched (see chart).

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Inside the store, jewelers and vendors are also greatly expanding how tablets are used. Initially deployed as high-resolution “look books,” particularly useful for custom designers who create a lot of one-off pieces or who want to show off CAD renderings in an eye-pleasing way, tablets are becoming true workhorses on the salesfloor. Here are some of the innovative ways they are being used by jewelers, as reported by the INSTORE Brain Squad:

As mobile POS stations, especially during trunk shows and other events

To host vendor apps, allowing customers to see full catalogs and style options

As display tools highlighting in-case specials

To support salesfloor engagement (for example, customers and sales associates can quickly look at style ideas they may have seen on the Web).

Education for both staff and customers. (GIA’s four Cs app is a good example.)

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To track salesfloor interactions.

Gold testing; and,

Keeping children entertained. (For more details of how jewelers are using iPads, please see instr.us/9143 )

Of course, any mobile device is only as good as its Internet connection, especially when it comes to online selling. And this is particularly the case for tablets, as few retailers have optimized their websites for viewing on the devices.

SMARTPHONE/TABLET HOLIDAY SALES 2013

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“Very few retailers — and none of the ones we studied over the 2013 holidays — were delivering a tablet-optimized experience,” says Ben Rushlo, vice president for analytics at research firm Keynote Analytics.

“Most are defaulting to the desktop site, and that can result in a disappointing experience for users that are on a cellular or slow public wi-fi connection,” Rushlo says in a report on the outlook for tablets in retail (instr.us/9144).

“If they’re going to keep those customers, they have to focus specifically and individually on the smartphone and tablet experiences. They need to test on 3G, 4G, and wi-fi, on real devices, to understand how their sites really work in the hands of users. Because the users will go where they get the best experience.”

It’s been only a little over four years since the first iPad was released, and already more than half the adult population of America is estimated to own a tablet. It’s probably fair to say tablets and iPads — whose luxury price may be causing them problems in the market but actually makes them a good fit for jewelry stores — are here to stay.

iFad? We doubt it.

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