iPad puts on its business suit

An iPad used in place of a cash register at Sightglass Coffee. Photo courtesy Tony Conrad.

An iPad used in place of a cash register at Sightglass Coffee. Photo courtesy of Tony Conrad.

Most of the discussion around Apple’s iPad has been about what a great consumer device it is. It’s a book reader, movie player, newspaper, photo viewer, RSS reader and more.

But the iPad has a lot to offer businesses as well. Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco is using an iPad, with Square’s payment system as a point-of-sale system. A restaurant in Australia is using iPads in place of printed menus and wine lists. Patrons can drill down on items that interest them for more information. Mercedes Benz is using iPads to allow customers to start their credit application while still intoxicated by the new car smell. The Plaza hotel in NYC will soon use them for concierge services and room service ordering.

As companies like Twitter, Groupon, Living Social, foursquare and Yelp focus on the small business market, it’s easy to see the iPad becoming an essential tool for small businesses.

I cringe every time I go to a business with a Groupon and see the clerk pull out a binder and manually cross out the Groupon on the list. An iPad app would reduce the transaction time and provide the business key metrics such as how many redemptions are outstanding and how much people are spending beyond the Groupon value. It would also reduce mistakes and fraud.

Other possible applications:

  • Reputation management with live feeds from Twitter and Yelp, with the ability to quickly respond to applications.
  • Check in information from sites like foursquare to show who is visiting right now and keep track of frequent customers. An alert could appear when the mayor/duke/etc. checks in.
  • Frequency programs to replace traditional punch cards.
  • Real estate agents could use iPads to show off alternative properties and keep track of reactions from buyers.

iPads could also interact with mobile devices such as iPhones to receive payments.

Of course, all of these things can be done with a computer. But the iPad offers a number of advantages:

  • It takes less space. All of this power takes less space than a computer monitor, much less a PC.
  • It doesn’t create a barrier between you and the customer. The tablet feels more collaborative versus using a laptop.
  • Fewer maintenance headaches due to viruses and malware.
  • It shows innovation and forward thinking.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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