It is the day after the iPad has been announced, and a simple “iPad” search on Google already yields 9 million hits, with a new article or tweet every 3-4 seconds.Indeed, Apple has done it again; it has successfully created enough buzz and anticipation around a product to have punters lining up ready to part with their cash even before they knew what it was, what it did, and what it looked like. Many in the retail and eCommerce arena wish they can create that kind of attraction around the products and services they sell, but don’t despair as I think the release of Apples newest product will bring a true benefit to retailers and the eCommerce industry.
In fact, the day after the release, UK time, so technically half a day after Apple announced the iPad, an argument erupted in the office among all eCommerce experts / Solution Strategist: What will the iPad do for eCommerce? What is the target market for the iPad? What will people use it for? Is it good for eCommerce?
Immediately all I could think of was all the house wives sitting on their sofas watching East Enders (and/or Coronation Street) and using their iPads to do the shopping. After all this is what all the women I know do, but now they use a laptop with a power cable that the children trip over. An iPad not only promises the “best browsing experience”, I think it avoids the biggest barrier to the average housewife/granny: The technophobia. Yes! The iPad is a computer but it doesn’t look like a computer, and as we’ve seen with all Apple’s products they are very easy to use and have a great user experience. This alone will be the biggest attraction for the non techie users who do not know what files are! And what programmes open which files! Apple has done that already, they have created the ultimate experience where things just work and you do not need to know how they do! And still, because the iPad does not look like a computer, it will attract the Sofa dwellers to use the internet and order their Pizza, grocery, dresses online. Possibly even act on an advert they have just seen on Television before they forget all about it. Think of all the things we now do with a laptop accessible to all the non laptop people. In fact I consider my family lucky considering the number of laptops we have in the family (I hope I don’t get burgled now), but most families still use a desktop hidden somewhere in the study and most probably powered off as well.
I think we are at the same point as when Digital Cameras first hit the market. The market really boomed when your average granny discovered that she does not have to take the film to the shop on the high street to get her grandchildren’s photos developed. People will discover the convenience of using the iPad, from where ever they are and whenever they want, but specifically while sitting on their Sofas.
Now back to that office argument we had! Many seemed to believe that an iPad will be most suitable to the techno savvy professional who is always on the move. I don’t agree. Think of who uses iPhones these days: Everybody and not only the techno savvy. I personally think it will be a very desirable device for the Professional on the move, but they already have their laptops and their iPhones/smartphones. If they are lucky enough to have their firm provide them with an iPad, then fine. But would they invest in an iPad themselves? I doubt it. There are several cases though where I could see this happening: Reading a book on the train, or watching a film, somehow the bigger screen is nicer, and if you were thinking about buying a Kindle, or a similar type device, then you would possibly be considering an iPad instead.
So what does that mean for eCommerce?
- Certainly more people online will lead to more online shoppers. eCommerce retailers will have more online shoppers to attract. The times where visitors come to the site might change to be more skewed towards the mornings when kids are in school, and in the evening with the popular TV shows, adverts and when the children are in bed.
- TV/radio adverts will generate much more traffic. Recently there has been a decline in TV advert revenue, but this could drastically change if the iPad provided quick and convenient way to act on the moment.
- Site designs will favour the “finger” navigation: We have already started seeing sites with unusually large elements such as: buttons, hyperlinks, and unusually large search suggestions. The iPhone adoption started this already. It is bound to increase with the adoption of the iPad. It is simple physics; your finger is much fatter than a mouse pointer or a stylus. People will want to use their fingers to navigate eCommerce sites. The mouse will be in the study with the dead desktop computer, and the stylus will be inside the sofa. We will see new site designs that allow users to do everything using touch and multi touch, like zoom, rotate, text and image overlays, all with the fingers.
- eCommerce will be moved to the people: This will become significant; so far eCommerce has mainly been about shoppers going to a website. With the iPad and similar successful tablets there is the potential for the retailer to go to customer shows, trade fairs, consumer social gathering and use their eCommerce capabilities using the iPad. I’m currently working with a Pan-European sports manufacturer and retailer. Their usual busy periods are around sports gatherings and sports events. Having an iPad will provide the means to show and sell stock even when they are not available in the event. In addition, it allows for customised and personalised printing and embroidery services to be cross sold in the event maybe just in time to get that autograph from your favourite sportsman/woman.
Another online sports retailer visited our gym and organised a squash/tennis competition to sell rackets and sportswear. He only used a laptop/tablet and the WiFi in the brasserie. The laptop provided a limited experience to the people in the club, but few iPads would have been a different story. Nevertheless, that retailer walked away with significant orders, and I still see new rackets and sports goods from his brand!
- In store services: We have all seen the bulky kiosks that occupy too much space in stores and hotels, yet hardly ever get used. Indeed, in store browsing/ordering, on average, has not been a successful venture for most retailers. An iPad has the potential to be a game changer but you’d better fix it to the wall or provide it to in-store assistants. Hopefully one day we will see rugged/waterproof versions of the iPad but I don’t think this will be a priority for Apple.
So, what do I think Apple missed with this version of the iPad?
So I can’t play Farmville on my iPad! If there is a major drawback to the iPad powering an eCommerce revolution, it is this one. We have seen people buying computers so they can play that game that all their friends play: Farmville!! TV Watching, online shopping has been relegated to times when no harvesting or plowing is required. The No Flash support is a major drawback.
I was actually very surprised that Apple did not include a camera with the iPad. After all, the iPad is supposed to fill the gap between the laptop and the iPhone. But both my laptop and the iPhone have inbuilt cameras! I personally think that was an oversight on Apples side, yet I think we are mature enough to recognise that we cannot have everything we want.
I hope I have made my point clear; I think the iPad has the potential to be adopted by your average person who loves his sofa, living room, bedroom TV watching experience/lifestyle and finds going to the study to switch on the computer a bit too much effort. I would say this account for a majority of people in England at least, and if I had a political party that promises everyone a guaranteed sofa time in front of the Television I would win hands down. These are the people who will find the iPad very exciting and most fulfilling. It will encourage them to be more active online, more reactive to social media and TV promotions. Those who have never been comfortable with a computer, will be encouraged with this over-sized iPhone to surf the net and buy online. eCommerce retailers will benefit from the increased site traffic, but they will have to contend with a new breed of online shoppers: the grannies with their iPads. Sites will start to have simpler navigations with oversized elements to suite human finger dimensions. Life in the living room will be simpler without the mouse and the power cable! For those who will not buy the iPad will continue to be very happy with their iPhones and smartphones.