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5 tablet headaches retailers face (and how to cure them)

Doug Drinkwater | Nov. 14, 2013
From payment security to poor connectivity, common challenges can undermine your tablet productivity.

Retailers are spending big on iPads and other tablets in a bid to increase efficiency and enhance the in-store shopping experience. But with new opportunities come potential pitfalls. Here's how to handle the most common ones.

Employee timewasting
The big retail splurge on tablets has enabled companies to quickly check stock, take payments, and even view store sales performance. But one of the early problems retailers have had to counter is how their employees misuse these devices.

Temptations like Angry Birds, Facebook, and Twitter, among others lie in the way of real tablet productivity, but there are ways of curtailing this activity such as locking the iPad to one app using Guided Access and by utilizing a Mobile Device Management Solution.

"Time wasting on tablets is a potential problem if retail employees are given a tablet with full internet access to use," says Ovum analyst Richard Absalom. "We think that this issue is best dealt with through HR policies and a performance review system--you can see if performance is suffering and act accordingly, not necessarily using a technology solution. However, if retailers do want to put controls in place, using an MDM client can monitor device usage and log activity."

Poor wireless connectivity
It doesn't matter how many tablets you deploy in-store, they'll be useless if your Wi-Fi router can't keep up with demand . As Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO of tablet POS start-up Leaf, explains, where you place your wireless access point is key.

"One area that many small businesses don't give much thought about when deploying tablets is their wireless connection," says Schwarzkopf. "For the most part, it's something they've never had to deal with before--and even if they have it's usually out of sight and out of mind already. However, an unreliable Wi-Fi connection can negate any of the benefits you hope to gain from tablets, and cause a lot of headaches along the way.

Schwarzkopf suggests putting your access point high in an open space where you have a direct line of sight to the areas where you'll use your tablets.

Device breakage
Portability is part of a tablet's appeal, but the devices aren't designed to withstand the heavy knocks, drops, and liquid spillage they may be subjected to in a retail environment. So be sure to equip your device with a rugged case and stand.

"Retailers and restaurants overall have fewer problems when they deploy tablets rather than a similar implementation with a PC-based Windows point of sale terminal," says Jason Richelson, chief executive of POS system ShopKeep. "There are fewer cables with a tablet and a battery backup is built in to name a few [benefits]. [But] we definitely recommend using a strong stand like the Heckler stand we offer which allows you to swivel the iPad and locks it down to the counter."


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