Canadian Music Trade - In Depth

Utilizing Tablets To Drive Sales & Inspire Customers

By Steven Butterworth

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Assuming you have effective programs to attract customers to your store – lessons, PA rentals, clinics, special events, and the like – and well trained, knowledgeable, customer-focused staff, the next most challenging thing to put in place is an engaging and entertaining retail environment.

Now, it would be great if every manufacturer or distributor could provide every one of their retailers with a crew of demonstrators and artists at every store, every week to entertain and engage customers on their products, but that simply isn’t possible. And as talented and knowledgeable as you and your staff members are, you have many things to do in the typical day, week, and year, and cannot devote as much time as would probably be ideal to engage every customer at the deepest possible level with an entertaining product presentation.

So how can you create additional traction and attraction in the retail environment? Perhaps the appropriate use of impressive and incoming pieces of technology should be to attract, entertain, and educate customers until you can fully engage them. As well, the proper use of technology may inspire customers to want to use other technologies – like the ones on your show floor – with their musical instruments. This is where tablets come into play.

The obvious use for tablets or flat screens in the retail environment is as an information kiosk providing information on your store, promotions, product features and benefits (FAB), etc.; however, these uses are really just replacing other methods used in the past, such as FAB cards on products and on display walls.

The use of tablets such as iPads is becoming increasingly more common in many retail environments and, quite frankly, if you can show someone how they can plug their iPad or other tablet into something else and get even more use out of it, you have their attention. The entire home audio and flat screen industry has become all about connectivity with other technology. Musical instruments are following suit so you’d better get on board and embrace it and be a leader in your local market.

Tablets can be used in a number of different ways in the retail environment, and I am sure many of you are imagining them used as a kiosk to show a product video, sign up your customers for mailings, contests, surveys, and more, and engage them through social media. Of course, those are very valid applications and are actually very simple to put together using an app such as Kiosk App from Griffin ($2.99 in the iTunes store) where you can put together a bunch of resources and have control over what customers can see and do on the iPad. These are the kinds of things customers are coming to expect in the retail environment anyways, and if they aren’t using your in-store kiosk or display, they are certainly using their smart phones to do research about the products on their own – often even while they are in your store.

However, what I am proposing is more engaging and entertaining. Many companies now have iOS or Android apps to help you get more use and greater enjoyment out of the products you are offering. If you can create a retail environment where they can have an “at home” experience using these products with tablet apps, you will have a much more engaged customer and one that is more likely to buy.

Some of the common barriers to success here are obvious but also easy to address:

A Tablet Is Too Expensive: Really? Compared to what? If a customer can get good information or experience from a product-related app the way the manufacturer envisioned it, you will simply sell more products. You can buy refurbished tablets at very reasonable rates and buy the extended service plan. You do not need much memory as the basic 16 GB versions of the iPad or even 8 GB Wi-Fi versions of Android tablets offer more than enough.

It Will Get Stolen, It Will Walk: There are many reasonably priced tablet holders of various designs that will fit well into your retail environment and ensure the tablets stay where you put them.

Who Will Create/Maintain The Content?: Depending upon the use of the tablet (kiosk versus instrument integration), there are a number of options. But either way, you should rely on your suppliers to provide you with materials you can utilize or they should provide you with a turnkey solution of product presentation materials or apps for the products. Quite frankly, the youngest person working at the store should be in charge of the tablets. Co-op students or part-timers are likely the most tech savvy and will appreciate having something that is their responsibility. Give them guidance and delegate; you will be surprised at what they can do.

Tablets used in conjunction with specific products will most likely require unique connection cables, Wi-Fi access, and a secure way to be shown with the product. Many of the apps out there relevant to the MI market are designed for home digital pianos and keyboards to help with the enjoyment of learning music and integrating technology; however, there are many drum machine and beat-making apps for the percussionists, effects for guitar and vocals, and even tuners for virtually any instrument. Others are out there for very high-end users such as synth editing apps, DJ interfaces, or even powerful DAW apps and virtual instruments.

Download the apps, keep them up to date, and ensure the manufacturer’s representative trains your staff on using the apps. Some apps will even support remote lessons through video conferencing products such as Skype and require very basic knowledge to use. Why not do a mock remote lesson from your retail floor to one of your lesson rooms in the back?

In the end, innovative suppliers will empower you to acquire and use tablets with their products that have great apps to extend customer enjoyment and put the excitement into the in-store experience with their products. Your customers will sell to themselves if they have the right experience in your store.

Customers are increasingly expecting great retail experiences, and many are looking for higher end products that come with a full level of service and support as well as interoperability with their other technological tools. Give them a healthy taste of what is possible in your retail environment and they will eagerly purchase from you as a full service retailer!

Steve Butterworth

In his role as GM for Yamaha Canada Music’s Sales and Marketing Division, Steve Butterworth leads a diverse and passionate team of musician marketers to ensure that the promise in the Yamaha brand is realized by all customers. On this, Steve says, “We want to engage customers with great apps, the best content and sounds as well as great tech support to ensure that they enjoy their Yamaha purchase to the fullest. Not many people may have realized that the coordination of the content for the Elton John Yamaha 125th Concert at the NAMM show this past year was managed through our new Remote Live iPad App.” He can be reached at

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician, Canadian Music Trade, Professional Sound, and Professional Lighting & Production magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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