NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the first weeks of the iPad launch, retailers have been largely left out of the conversation. But industry executives believe the device could have a major impact on everything from retailers' catalogs to e-commerce to enhancing the in-store experience.
So far, few retailers have embraced the new Apple device even though many already have iPhone apps. Gap, Gilt.com and eBay are among the retail brands that have created iPad applications, while Puma is expected to add iPads to its stores late this year. "For first movers, they're going to provide a higher level of service, or perceived service, than those that don't offer this kind of capability," said Chris Davey, senior VP at SapientNitro, which counts Target , JCPenney, Barnes & Noble and Foot Locker among its retail clients. "It's a connected experience for those who want to promote a multichannel presence or a higher degree of service in their stores."
The first, most logical applications include e-commerce and interactive catalogs. But in time, the iPad could be used as a virtual sales assistant, allowing sales staff in the dress department to pull up coordinating accessories from the jewelry or shoe department. Car dealers could customize a vehicle, showing customers colors and finishes, all while standing in the parking lot. Transactions could be completed without visiting a register and special orders could be placed on the spot. Cumbersome, expensive kiosks could also be replaced.
With retailers already digitizing catalogs for online use, it's easy to imagine distributing catalogs through iPad. Retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy and Williams Sonoma, especially, could benefit from the ability to embed video of product demos, while apparel retailers could easily include styling advice from designers.
Gap's 1969 Stream app, launched earlier this month, takes that idea one step further with a social-shopping experience that includes content from designers, musicians and fashion insiders, the ability to purchase items (or share them with a friend) without leaving the app and a geo-locator to find the nearest store. It includes a music video from Truth & Salvage, a video of Jay Sario from "Project Runway" dressing consumers in Gap denim, photos of celebs wearing Gap and tweets from designer Patrick Robinson.
|AGENCY: AKQA SAN FRANCISCO|
Ivy Ross, Gap's exec-VP marketing, said the brand first began developing its app with agency AKQA in mid-February. "The iPad will be a new cultural icon. And the way it allows people to engage, we didn't want to be left out of that," she said. "It makes your brand modern."
Ms. Ross said the brand won't have download figures for another month, but she's happy with the initial reaction from consumers, many of whom are declaring Gap "cool again," she said. And Gap won't stop with just an app. The brand plans to explore the iPad's in-store potential at its 1969 Jeans shop in West Hollywood, though Ms. Ross declined to share details.
Mr. Davey said that his agency has begun showing retail clients how they could use the iPad and has gotten positive reactions, though he declined to share any specifics. "They're all pretty psyched about the idea and want to prototype it," he said. "But it does require some show and tell. ... Until it came out, people didn't know what to expect. Initially people were talking about it as more of a publisher platform, an alternative to Kindle."
In-store uses of the iPad are where the real opportunity is, said several executives, though expense will be a hurdle initially. "We'll need to see the price come down before it gets to chain retail stores," said Kevin Ertell, VP-retail strategy at Forsee Results. But, ultimately, he said the iPad or another small tablet device could serve to replace many of the technologies that have been touted at retail in recent years, from kiosks to magic mirrors to hand-held scanners used to check inventory. "It could wrap a lot of things up in a cheaper, more convenient way."
"Without a doubt, the iPad will have a dramatic impact on the in-store retail experience," said Edward Brojerdi, president-MDC Innovation Partners. "There are some logistical details to get sorted out -- how do we make sure they don't walk out the door, that people aren't going to different screens -- before it becomes ubiquitous, but it will happen."
The iPad will be part of a program created by Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, part of the MDC Partners Network, which recently won a global assignment from Puma, which includes building a new web experience and creating an iPad retail solution for the brand's customization platform, Mongolian BBQ. The design-your-own-shoe concept had included in-store kiosks, which have since been pulled out. KBS&P is being charged with bringing iPads into the store to "reimagine" the Mongolian BBQ experience. It's not clear exactly what that experience will look like, but execs say the iPads will be tested in stores this summer and begin rolling out to stores later this year.
IPad Meets Retail: Half a dozen ways industry execs imagine the iPad could be used at retail
- 1. Catalogs: Online versions of print catalogs haven't taken off, but iPad versions, with embedded video, as well as the ability to browse whenever it's convenient and make purchases could be the next big thing.
- 2. Customization: Cars, furniture, shoes and apparel could all be customized in-store, with customers able to easily view and select colors, fabrics and finishes, and then place the special order.
- 3. Sales Floor Assistant: The iPad could provide easy access to product data, customer data and customer reviews, in addition to allowing transactions to be completed away from the register.
- 4. Personal shopper: Customers finding a jacket in one department could access recommendations for coordinating apparel and accessories in other departments.
- 5. Registries: Now divided into an offline and online experience, iPad could enable customers to create registries from a store's entire inventory.
- 6. E-Commerce: Consumers are already shopping on their phones; it's only a matter of time before the iPad becomes another shopping tool.