Apple “iPad” Tablet Killer App

Apple’s planned launch of their as yet unnamed tablet has gotten me thinking about what applications are going to prove to be the “killer app” for the new device.

Recalling a conversation I had with a friend our answer was: retail.  The tablet has an opportunity to make a big impact on how retailers interact with their customers.  Let’s look at how the device could change how customers interact with the retailers before, during and after the sale.  For purposes of discussion I’ll use Home Depot as an example.

Normally before I head off to Home Depot I (hopefully) grab any returns I have and scratch out a list of items I need (along with measurements).  Once I’m there wait in the excrutiatingly long line to make my returns and then I set off into the huge maze of football field length, sky-high aisles – hoping to find the products I need.  Once I have the items I need I either stand in a long line with a human clerk or battle with the self-checkout system.  In general, it’s a largely unpleasant experience that is replicated in some measure at many other big box stores (Walmart, Target, Lowes, Sports Authority, etc).

So what could a tablet do for the customer?  Before I leave I pull up the Home Depot app on my Apple tablet and it reminds me that I have items in the garage ready to be returned.  It tells me that with the holidays over, I may want to look at some new storage and organizations products to make better use of the space in my home.  It has some routine DIY project videos along with step by step instructions in case I’m trying to fix a leaky faucet or install an eco-friendly rain bucket.  Lastly it allows me to enter in the items that I need either by typing them in a tradition shopping list and/or by searching and selecting products from their catalog.  Now I’m ready to head off to Home Depot.

Once I show up in the store, a Home Depot sales person greets me.  They know that I have a lot of items on my list and that I’m working on a big kitchen redesign project.  They also know how that I’ve spent a lot of money at their stores in the past 18 months and that they’d like to help me spend more of my money at Home Depot, not at a competitors store.  As the sales person helps me find things, I’m scanning their UPC code and updating my total bill for the visit.  With all my shopping done I say goodbye to the sales person and I’m ready to head to the door.  My order is automatically charged to my credit card so I do not need to stand in line to check out.  But before I get to the door I remember that I need some nails.  I can’t remember where nails are in the store so I type in nails into my Home Depot tablet application and it provides walking directions to the hardware section of the store that has nails.  I purchase those and I’m out the door.

Once home I am able to check the rewards points I earned, rate and review the products I purchased and mark any products for return in case they need to go back.

Apple’s tablet provides retailers, especially big-box retailers, some opportunities for innovation, to provide differentiated service and to build stronger bonds with the customer.  The larger screen has the potential to be the tipping point that brings about several evolutions in software design and ultimately consumer experience.

What do you think the tablet’s killer app will be?