The digital age is here, yet paper and print still dominate the landscape within retail stores and restaurants. However, a new trend is beginning to emerge.  As the cost of tablet computers and digital monitors continue to fall, the more progressive businesses have begun placing them around their businesses.   The iPad specifically has become a favorite amongst business owners given its reliability and the selection of apps available on the market today.

While the trend is still in its infancy, the use of tablets in businesses has become almost common place in trendier areas including San Francisco and Washington DC.  Larger brands such as JC Penny have publically announced plans to replace the majority of their cash registers with iPad point of sale systems.  Also, OTG Management recently said they plan on installing 7,000 iPads for public use in North American airports in an effort to draw more people to their restaurants.

Below are some of today’s more common uses of iPads within the retail/restaurant environments:

Social Media & Email Address Collection

iPad App To collect email addressesMany businesses struggle to find an effective way to get more Facebook Likes and email subscribers.  Traditionally, businesses have placed paper & pen email signup forms by checkout counters as well as “Like Us On Facebook” posters.  These static methods do little to grab a customer’s attention and entice them to take action.

OnSpot Social is an iPad app that collects email addresses and contact information from customers and passersby.  Also, the iPad app Likes Facebook Pages as well as follows Twitter accounts.  With animated graphics and full screen messages, the app is able to attract and engage customers.

Point of Sale (POS) Terminals

As an iPad is basically a portable, full functioning computer with a touch screen, it makes sense it would work well as a point of sale terminal.  Retailers and restaurant owners are quite interested in this new possibility as certain iPad POS systems are considerably less expensive than the traditional.  Big name players in this area include Revel Systems and POS Lavu.

Restaurant Menus

Use iPad As Menu
Stacked restaurant allows customers to create their own burgers on iPads setup at each table

Some restaurants have taken the iPad initiative to new lengths by placing iPads at every table to be used as menus.  Stacked, a newer burger restaurant, has employed this tactic with much success.  Customers are able to actually build their entire burger through an easy to use interface on a tableside iPad.

Web Browsing

Coffee shops and other local hangouts historically have supplied newspapers and magazines to keep patrons occupied.  Those catering to the tech savvy crowd have started installing iPads at tables and counters around their establishments to allow customers to check email, read the news, or simply surf the web.