The future of tablets in retail

The growth of tablet computers over the last few years has resulted in more and more retailers using tablets to enhance the customer experience and in-store commerce.

Tablets are enhancing the customer experience by providing store assistants with stock information at their fingertips, enabling mobile payment stations and offering customers with an interactive shopping experience.

As well as creating a more enhanced shopping experience for the customer, tablet computers are being used to improve the efficiency of the front and back of store operations. Tablets can remove a significant amount of the manual work involved in retail operations, such as inventory management and office paperwork.

As the integration of tablets into retail environments becomes increasingly common, there are benefits to ‘going rugged’ and limitations behind consumer tablets in tough working environments.

iPads continue to remain one of the most popular choices for use in retail environments due to its familiarity with the end user. Manufacturers such as Honeywell are starting to address the attachment to Apple devices and as a result launched the new Captuvo SL62 Sled for the Apple iPad Mini in 2014. The device not only strengthens the iPad Mini to withstand drops from 1.2m but features an integrated 1D and 2D barcode scanner which can be used for checking inventory, product look-up and scanning products at the point of sale. When the Captuvo SL62 is connected to a mobile printer, the device can then be used as a point of sale, further enhancing the customer experience by reducing queuing at manned checkouts.

However, deploying a fragile iPad into a fast paced retail warehouse environment could present many challenges. As these devices live with the daily beating common in warehouse environments, breakage and damage is likely. This would incur costs due to downtime and, in turn, loss of profit.

Many manufacturers such as Getac, MiTAC, Trimble and Casio offer tablet solutions for the harsher working environments. Take for example the MioWork A90, a small and compact tablet computer which, as well as being stylish and extremely lightweight, features an IP54 rating and can withstand multiple drops of up to 1m, fitting perfectly into the retail environment. With a lanyard option, the A90 can be carried around with ease. The MioWork L130/L135 also features an IP67 rating and meets MIL-STD-810G drop resistance to concrete, as well as surviving full submersion in water.A100-Barcode-scan_screen-(3)

With Gen Z now becoming the next generation workforce and future consumers their working styles and buying behaviours need to be considered when making technological investments. Furthermore by recognising their familiarity with tablet devices, training costs can be reduced due to the likelihood of those staff already using tablet computers at home. Many researchers have highlighted that the total cost of ownership far outweighs the initial setup costs and those retailers who have yet to introduce tablet computers into their stores are seen to be lagging behind.

While introducing tablets into retail stores is seen as a positive move, we need to stay knowledgeable about rugged alternatives and how they can benefit retailers and customers alike. Not all rugged tablet computers are bulky and unattractive, infact quite the opposite. Most now look and feel much like familiar consumer tablets and yet perform to a much higher standard in all retail applications.

For more information about Varlink’s full range of Android and Windows tablet computers suitable for various retail environments, both front and back of store conatcts us on 01904 717180.


We are a specialist, value added distributor of mobile computing and data capture products. Underpinning all that we do is an understanding that our customers deserve outstandingly executed basic distribution services.

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