Motorola Solutions, known for its bar-code scanners and police and firefighters’ walkie-talkies, is showing off Monday a tablet computer that will let retail salespeople help shoppers buy goods, check inventory and compare products from anywhere in the store in real time.
“Retail is our second-largest business behind government (clients),” said Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Schaumburg-based company created Jan. 4 by the old Motorola Co.’s split into two companies. Sales to private companies account for 35 percent of Motorola Solutions’ more than $8 billion in yearly revenues.
Motorola isn’t saying which retailers will use the tablet, called the ET1, but shoppers could see it strapped around salespeople’s hands some time in January. The tablets will cost less than $1,000, and will be volume discounted.
The tablet – Motorola Solutions’ first – leverages the Android operating system, has swap-out battery packs, can withstand rough-and-tumble handling, and supports apps developed using RhoElements software and native Android.
Retail clerks may access whatever apps they need to securely process credit- or debit-card purchases, check inventory, scan a digital promotion, look up a customers’ loyalty card buying history and compare prices and detailed information about specific products.
The tablet also communicates with Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones and walkie-talkies that store managers and warehouse workers use to talk to each other.
The tablet’s ability to access and communicate information via high-speed Wi-Fi networks frees the salesperson to roam the floors and react immediately to shoppers’ questions and quick in-and-out store trips, Conrado said.
The goal is to keep shoppers from running out in frustration – similar to retailers’ efforts to keep online shoppers from abandoning their shopping carts before they hit the “pay” button.
Today, most retailers require salespeople to do checkouts, inventory and information lookups and other transactions at the cash register.
Analysts say shoppers expect higher levels of customer service and will leave if they don’t get it. Nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) consumers said they’ve bailed on a transaction because of poor service, and 59 percent said they would try a new brand or company to try to get better service, according to a recent American Express Global Customer Service survey.
Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research in San Francisco, said a tablet that succeeds in the business world must be priced less than $1,000 and be “sexy” enough for salespeople to want to use it.
She said the Motorola tablet’s use of Android and its ability to use a variety of accessory add-ons could pose a challenge to the iPad, which is gaining traction in the business world.