10 creative ways businesses are using tablets

10 creative ways businesses are using tablets

Summary: From interactive drink menus to innovative payment systems, companies are always experimenting with fresh uses for tablets. Here are some of the most interesting examples.

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Tablets can provide a customized user experience that businesses can use to create better ways to interact with customers. You've probably heard about businesses using mobile devices to gather analytics on the shopping or buying behaviors of their customers, but there are other tablet usage stories. We've compiled a list of 10 creative ways companies are using tablets.

1. Interactive menus

Incentient specializes in guest services for the hospitality industry. They use an iPad interface to customize food and drink menus for clients all around the world. Wine lists are one of their specialities.

"We've been building the global wine database over the years," said Jennifer Martucci, co-founder of Incentient. "Every client can access and can sort by attributes they wish."

When the guest selects the wine, they have pairing suggestions, images of labels and tasting notes. The Incentient program also allows businesses to run analytics to find out exactly what guests are touching on the screen and eventually buying.

wine menu
Image: Incentient

2. Concierge services

A concierge staff is typically for luxury hotels and resorts. Tablets change that by allowing hotels to use them as makeshift concierge stations. Instead of going down to the front desk to chat with the receptionist, guests can log into the hotel services on the tablet and book reservations, download and print boarding passes, and add notes for hotel employees. Concierge Interactive has clients like Four Seasons and Hyatt Regency, which use the service as virtual guides to their hotels.

3. Photo booths

Boothify is a custom photo booth that is downloadable for tablets for company parties and other events. Set up a light, prop up the tablet, put down a backdrop, and you've got a lightweight photo booth. Boothify, made by Prolific Interactive, is also a social media experience—it has a live feed of the booth's photos and it aggregates guests' photos on Instagram as well using a specific event hashtag.

boothify
Image: Boothify

4. Concerts and sporting events

Instead of servers running around the suites of arenas during concerts or sporting events, guests can use tablets to order food and beverages, shop the company store, or purchase tickets for future events. Some customizations offer places to visit after the event or scheduling of sober rides home. However, in the examples of these interfaces shown by Incentient, guests are only directed to certain websites and cannot generally browse the web or use the tablet for anything else.

5. Social bar games

With trivia, poker tournaments, karaoke, and apps for kids, bar games keep customers sticking around longer, therefore drinking and eating more and spending more money. Buzztime uses Samsung Galaxy tablets and a mobile app to offer bars and restaurants arcade games, card games, and trivia tournaments. Customers use the tablets at their table for individual or group games and receive branded rewards and targeted advertising.

buzztime
Image: Buzztime

6. Going beyond payments

Tablets as point of sale systems have been around for quite some time, but some companies are taking it one step farther. Starbucks, whose handy app allows customers to pay for their orders and use loyalty rewards programs through mobile devices, now offers customers the option to create a custom order on their smartphones and tablets before they even reach the register.

Both Chili's and Applebee's announced in 2013 that they are installing tablets at each table in many of their locations across the U.S. by spring 2014. Having the tablets at the table lessen wait times and ease the ordering and payment processes for customers. Applebee's is using E la carte Presto tablets, and Chili's is installing Ziosk.

7. Digital signage

Grocery stores and clothing retailers are among some of the most common types of businesses that have used digital signage for several years. However, using tablets for digital signage allows for a smaller and more personal, private experience for a variety of companies and their customers. Armodilo creates sleek tablet stands for digital signage for clients such as Macy's, TED, and Philips. The company makes freestanding iPad kiosks that come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Many of their clients use the stands at research conferences and exhibitions as an addition to a booth or a stand-alone kiosk, but they are also useful inside stores to create an interactive experience.

8. Better equipping field employees

In manufacturing and installation businesses, there is a definite need for secure but flexible testing and payment systems. Employees may need to test products, run inspections, or install new systems. Tablets can make that process much faster, simpler, and more efficient. Take Maine-based Revision Energy for example, a company that installs solar-powered systems. The company equipped its employees with Google Nexus tablets so they can use them to create proposals and deploy the services. The company is also looking at cloud storage to sync information between them and their customers.

9. Pop-up retail shops

During the most recent holiday season, the pop-up shop trend exploded into the retail scene, especially with big technology companies. For a short amount of time around the holidays, Google, Microsoft, and Intel all opened pop-up stores across the U.S. and used tablets as the primary tool for sales, product searches, and customer interaction. Pop-up shops are an easy way to showcase these portable, lightweight tablets.

Intel's pop-up store was its first attempt at a brick-and-mortar store, called the "Intel Experience," which used tablets as the main avenue to interact with customers to show them product inventory, place orders, and offer games and social networking.

popupshops
Image: Google

10. Specialized point-of-sales

Sephora, the beauty retailer, is exemplary in the use of tablets as point-of-sale systems. Employees are equipped with tablets that have a Sephora app complete with makeup tutorials, a virtual mirror, experts performing how-to videos, social media, catalogs, and loyalty programs. They carry it around the store, assist customers, and make the sale transactions wherever they are on the floor. The Sephora app connects via smartphones as well. The company also uses tablets as in-store kiosks in a partnership with nail salon XpresSpa. The tablets showcase menus of nail art, colors, and prices of manicures, which can then be done in-store or send tutorials for customers to use at home.

Topics: Tablets: Where's the Productivity?, Tablets

Lyndsey Gilpin

About Lyndsey Gilpin

Lyndsey Gilpin is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She writes about the people behind some of tech's most creative innovations and in-depth features on innovation and sustainability.

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24 comments
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  • So, it's all about shopping then is it?

    .
    chrisbedford
    • That's the impression I got.

      Nothing wrong with that, but the list certainly skews that way.
      CharlieSpencer
  • Thanks for not using a slideshow

    great article. would not have read it if this was a slideshow.
    Jean-Pierre-
    • Changed

      The slide show format has changed. It only refreshes the information area. It does not refresh the entire page with each slide click.
      benched42
  • 10 creative ways businesses are using tablets

    So its not the consumer must have device like people want us to believe it is. Like I said, its a fad and only works in certain situations. People wanting to use it as a replacement computer are in for a shock.
    Loverock.Davidson
    • Yes it is a consumer product

      From my reading consumers are purchasing tablets more so than computers. More-so business is fast moving in that direction as well. So, fad they are not, they are useful tools. I remember when folks said laptops were fads as well never to replace desktops. Oh how times change, yet some old attitudes never do.
      BubbaJones_
      • Its a fad

        They are purchasing tablets but don't know why they need them and haven't found good uses for them. A good percentage of the tablets being bought end up sitting on the night stand collecting dust.
        Loverock.Davidson
      • desktop

        OK, I will bite on this one. Show me some facts as to how a laptop is better than a desktop at home. Place the laptop on your desk and I will use a Mac Mini PC hooked up to nice Samsung 27" monitor, and Apple Keyboard and Logitech Mouse. How is that your experience on a laptop is going to be better?

        As a portable device, the laptop is better. I must say for a battery backup the laptop is better, but then again we have reliable electric power where we live.
        mytake4this
      • Business is moving in that direction

        Replacing desktops with iPads?

        Though I never once heard anyone claim that laptops were fads. In fact many championed the idea as you got a full blown PC that you could take on the road.
        William.Farrel
    • Not so much...

      Sure, they are consumption products. But I used my Android phone to write about 90% of the first draft of a 90,000 word novel, and the Galaxy Note 10.1 I'll be getting next week will help as I work on the rewrite. It's not "office" work, but it's real work, it's creative work, and I'm confident the tablet will make the writing even easier than it was on the phone.
      online@...
      • Its not work

        its a keyboard and a display and your just typing words. Not exactly pushing the envelope and you would be much better suited with a desktop or laptop for that task. You are doing it on a phone or tablet "just to do it".
        Loverock.Davidson
      • It's all about productivity for me, too...

        I use my 10.1 with the Papyrus app to handwrite a daily journal. I'd been doing it for decades with pen and paper, but now I'm in the second year of doing it with the tablet. Printouts look very much like the old journal pages, except now I can include photos and artwork. And, speaking of artwork, it's a nifty art tool for drawing and painting, too.

        For people like me, the superior stylus is the feature that won me over. Can't imagine doing what I do on tablets without Wacom pen technology and a small-nibbed accurate, pressure sensitive stylus.
        bradson
      • How many years did that take?

        typing out 90,000 words on a phone screen?
        William.Farrel
      • But why?

        nt
        thekman58
  • Rentals

    I'm looking for something to help with on-snow demos. Any ideas out there?
    bomber@...
  • Doctor, Doctor...

    My physicians office uses tablets. All my med records right at hand as soon as I sign in. Printing for the docs that require hard copies.
    barnesie@...
    • How many times...

      ...have you actually observed your doctor or nurse cleaning those tablets between patients? There have been studies show how filthy doctor's stethoscopes are and they are notoriously bad a washing their hands already. Think those tablets are getting cleaned? Is that a smudge on the screen or c-diff?
      Rann Xeroxx
  • Targeted

    Ohhh, a bar game that pushes me targeted advertising. How exciting.
    Spam on my phone, spam on your phone, spam on the bar phone.
    Machead26
  • Not all about shopping

    My apartment complex has three iPads set up in the rental office for residents to come in and use as ad hoc workstations...quick web browsing, personal email, as well as point of payment for monthly rent and service requests. This is part of the complex's business services/recreation center, which also has comfortable seating, a big screen TV, and free printing and fax services for residents.
    online@...
    • misuse of the term "Workstations". Really just web-based kiosks.

      "quick web browsing, personal email, as well as point of payment for monthly rent and service requests."

      Some peoples needs are very basic...and tablets are fine for that.

      Try running SQL Server and Toad for Oracle on a non-pc tablet.

      Surface Pro II does the trick but thats a PC Tablet and not an ARM SOC one.
      GotThumbs