Apr 15 2015

A Look Back on 5 Years of the iPad in Business Technology

The tablet that Apple built blazed trails in both the business world and the consumer world.

When the iPad took its first step into the spotlight, in 2010, Apple’s critics quickly dismissed the tablet as merely an oversized version of its other products — namely the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

But the naysayers were wrong. And it’s not like that’s the first time critics were forced to eat crow when it came to making predictions about the future success of Apple products.

The iPad, which celebrated its fifth birthday on April 3, is unique in that the device’s flourishing success has been not just in the consumer space but largely in enterprise circles as well. It currently holds a 28 percent market share in the tablet space, according to a report on Q4 2014 tablet sales, conducted by IDC.

Tablets in the workplace are hotter than ever. They’re popping up in retail stores, restaurants, airplanes and more. BizTech has been on the ground covering the adoption of tablets by businesses, and the use cases have grown as the devices have matured.

iPads Bring the Business to the Customer

Back in 2011, NewDominion Bank in Charlotte, N.C., was looking for a way to flip the traditional branch experience on its head. So the bank turned to Apple’s then-nascent iPad to provide customers with the banking equivalent of a house call. BizTech’s report from 2011 provides more details:

NewDominion not only is helping its own employees with its use of iPads, but it’s also looking for ways to benefit its customers, such as sending employees with a tablet and possibly a small portable printer to visit clients.

“They can actually talk to the customer, open an account, do everything they need to do, and print their documents while they’re there at that person’s place of business, residence [or] wherever they are,” [Sonja] Allison, [NewDominion’s assistant vice president and network administrator], says. “They can basically take care of that person, from start to finish, without having to have the person come into the office.”

Such service would save customers the time of coming into a branch office, which Allison says is especially useful for small-business clients who otherwise may have to close up shop to make the trip. “We’re putting a spin on what the typical tablet use is,” she says.

The power of the tablet is that it makes a business feel more personal. And when a business is trying to decide which bank to work with, anything that strengthens or reinforces that relationship matters.

iPads Help Fuel the Food Truck Revolution

In the quest for authenticity, American food culture has decided that it has a thing for meals on wheels. The food truck industry has seen “a remarkable rise over the past five years,” according to an IBISWorld analysis.

Back in 2012, BizTech went out and profiled the Washington, D.C., food truck scene and reported on the rise of tablets as point-of-sale devices by food truck vendors:

In the past, food trucks were cash-only operations. But today, they wield tablets and smartphones capable of accepting credit card payments and e-mailing receipts to customers at the point of sale.

“We figured that given our price point, we were going to have to accept credit cards from the beginning,” Doug Povich, co-owner and operator of the Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck, says. “People really get excited when they come to the truck and see us using the latest technology. It's not the typical POS that they see in a restaurant.”

By turning any tablet into a cash register at any time, the iPad has helped turn almost anyone into a business on the go.

iPads at the Hotel Check-In

The hospitality industry is completely reliant on its ability to make guests feel welcome.

So it might be a surprise to learn that technology, namely iPads, actually proved to be a useful tool for the Hyatt Regency O’Hare’s new check-in initiative. In 2013, BizTech reported on the hotel’s iPad-integrated check-in process and how it lifted customer satisfaction:

The benefits of a tablet-based service for checking guests in and out became clear shortly after Hyatt Regency O’Hare began testing the solution last winter.

Positive ratings in guest satisfaction surveys shot up 20 percent for those who interacted with Hyatt associates with iPad devices.

These upbeat first impressions often have a lasting impact, Hyatt executives say. “When you have a great check-in experience, you’ll likely look at your guest room and the entire ambience from a rosier perspective,” says John Prusnick, director of IT innovation and strategy for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. “There definitely are ripple effects.”

By putting the iPad at the forefront of the guest experience, Hyatt was able to make a lasting impression on its customers.

iPads Improve the Sales Process

With the iPad’s transformational role in boosting enterprise mobility, it should come as no surprise that the device has proved to be a field sales representative’s best friend. Auto manufacturer Tenneco North America Aftermarket was able to see improvements and efficiencies across its sales team when the company rolled out tablets to its salesforce.

Last year, BizTech spoke with Susan Keshen, business analyst for the aftermarket sales automation group at Tenneco, to get a better understanding of how tablets turned the tide:

The company deployed 32-gigabyte iPad Air tablets to its sales team over the summer, and they allowed the employees to protect the tablets with either Griffin Technology’s rugged Survivor cases or Logitech Keyboard Folio cases. So far, the greatest benefit is improved productivity, Keshen notes, but the tablets also are saving the company money. Sales team members connect directly to Tenneco’s CRM tool with their tablets and can access a product database to answer questions immediately.

“They no longer have to call back later with answers,” she says. “That’s made a huge difference. Our customers are impressed.”

The Future of iPads in Business

Tablets have made a splash, but we’ve learned several things about them along the way. The refresh cycle of tablets, for example, isn’t like the smartphone. It’s much more like the notebook computer.

And, by and large, customers appear to be delighted by the experience of using iPads and tablets in general. This applies to placing an order, signing for credit card purchases and more.

But if we look back on the history of the PC in the workplace, we know that tablets are just getting started. So here’s three cheers to Apple’s iPad on its fifth birthday, and here’s to another 5 years of tablet excellence.