12/07/2010 11:04:00 AM
The Slate. The Streak. The Notion. The Eee. The Galaxy.
Nope, these aren’t drinks at a 1990s East Coast scenester bar. These are just a few of the many tablet computers that have come out or are coming out soon. Apple’s iPad is no longer the only kid on the block with a lemonade stand. Dozens of major hardware manufactures are all selling their own tablet computers--across a dizzying range of tech specs, OS platforms, and carriers. In mid-November, as retailers ramped up for the holiday season, Slate tech reporter Dan Gillmor announced, “Let the tablet wars begin."
Some of the 6,800,000 results of a Google Images Search for “tablet computers” performed in November 2010
Yet for online retailers, war is the wrong metaphor for the rise of tablets. Instead, think opportunity. Opportunity for growth. Opportunity to interact with and delight potential customers in new ways.
Here are three ways you, as an online retailer, can jump into the new and ever-deepening world of opportunity being generated by the rise of tablets:
1. Know the Basics: Apps Are the New Black
Tablets and apps go together like bread and butter, like snow and skiing, like Lady Gaga and awesome. So, apps---what are they exactly? Why are they such a Big Deal?
Apps are the latest delivery vehicle for code. Remember the reign of big box stores like CompUSA selling software on CDs in boxes two decades ago? Now the instructions to get your devices do interesting things arrive in the form of apps downloaded directly from the creator or from an app store.
Apps are developed for a specific platform. Android, Apple iOS, and Microsoft are the current major players. Once an app is produced, it is pushed out in any number of ways--the app stores of these platforms, your own site, or through advertising the app on other sites.
Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have programmers on staff for app development. Mashable estimates that an app can be developed by a third-party for as little as $1,000. Additionally, help resources on DIY app development abound for each platform (while geared toward smartphones, many of the lessons of this Mashable compilation cross-over easily into tablet app development.) An especially cool resource--the Appcelerator--allows you to translate an app built for one platform to another platform quickly and easily. And it is 100% free to use.
As for actual content ideas, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Apps take advertising to an entirely new---read: interactive and intensely fun---level. For some inspiration, check out the iPad app for Google’s Boutiques.com.
2. Get on board now--and reap the rewards as reach grows massively
Consumers have crowned tablets the Next Big Thing in the realm of gadgetry. Information Week projects that global tablet sales will surpass 200 million units by 2014. This fall, the number of wireless services subscriptions surpassed 5 billion. The Wall Street Journal is calling the movement of consumers toward tablets (as well as smartphones and other touchscreen devices) a “dramatic shift”.
Expanding diversity and choice are opportunities for retailers. And moments of new technology mass-adoption are golden opportunities. Remember the advent of smartphones a few years ago? In half a decade, high-end mobile technology went from a few users to a central part of advertising strategies and tactics for online retailers. Tablets have this same potential---and perhaps even more, with greater computing power, bigger screens, and an already app-savvy public.
3. Stay tuned and pay attention
While consumers are gobbling up tablets faster than Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, they have not placed this technology completely in one box. Tablets straddle home, work, and play. They also occupy a middle zone between mobile and nonmobile devices, laptops and desktops. Consumers won’t just be using tablets for single events (like phone calls)---they’ll be spending lots of quality time with them browsing the web. Tablets are an equally great companion for reading the morning news during the BART morning commute as well cuddled up on the sofa at night with hot cocoa, shopping for that perfect gift for Grandma. They may develop important---but different---uses in all these areas. Keep this in mind--this is a rapidly evolving technology and market.
While the 2010 holiday season might be a testing-ground for tablet producers, it is an absolute bridge of opportunity for online retailers. Beyond this, 2011 will be the year when consumers say what they are using these devices for and manufacturers and programmers respond. This will reshape the advertising landscape for online retailers going forward and in the 2011 holiday season.
So, take a deep breath, toss mouse and keyboard aside for a moment, and jump onto the tablet-optimized advertising train. It may not be leaving from Platform 9 ¾, but it is going to be a magical ride nevertheless to widening reach and revenue potential.
Posted by Paul Nauert, Google Retail Team