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iPad Invading Enterprise. Re: Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters, a clothing retailer with $2.5 billion in annual sales, held an analyst/investor day on September 27 and to say that iPad and Apple played a minor role would be an understatement. Management outlined how iPad is increasing customer satisfaction, in addition to improving Urban Outfitters’ efficiency and financial performance. I found the presentation quite revealing and helpful in trying to understand, straight from the source, one example of how iPad is invading enterprise.

All quotes are attributed to Calvin Hollinger (Chief Information Officer), unless noted otherwise.

Two years ago, we deployed iPad point-of-sale into all the stores. An iPad point-of-sale is pretty much — it looks like your iPhone. It has a little case around it. You can scan bar codes. You can swipe the credit card, and it does everything that a normal point-of-sale system does, except you can’t take cash obviously. We don’t have a debit device. You can’t take debit transactions, and you can’t take checks. But it does everything else that a point-of-sale device can do.

When we deployed it, again, two years ago, it was very well received by our customers. There’s a very personal interaction between a sales associate and the customer. It was well received by sales associates. They had fun having a customer sign their signature with their thumb. And it was especially well received by Frank Conforti, our CFO, because this device, fully loaded, fully installed, is about $500 and register is about $5,000. So it also made financial sense. 

Not only are iPads improving customer satisfaction (which is an important piece of brick and mortar retailing), but Urban Outfitters is saving money by moving to mobile point of sale. What is a drawback? An iPad can’t physically hold cash. As more customers move away from cash and towards other forms of payments, this “drawback” will become less relevant and judging from how cash is handled in Apple stores (hidden cash drawers), a cash-paying customer can still have a carefree transaction with mobile point of sale. 

And in fact, we told the stores, “Give us back your fixed register that we can refurbish and use somewhere else. Give us back one register, we’ll give you five of these devices.” I don’t have the exact numbers. John [ph], you can correct me. Between the brands, I think we’ll be sending about 1,100 of these devices for peak of this year.

Compared to the millions of iPads Apple sells each quarter, 1,100 iPads are drop in the bucket. However, more importantly, Urban Outfitters is planning on replacing every cash register with five iPads, expanding iPad’s usage and relevancy within each store. 

Richard Hayne - Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board of Directors, CEO, and President:

Right now our store associates can better service our customers by selling merchandise from the web inventory using an iPad in stores. This is a very impactful thing that we have rolled out this year, and it’s been incredible for us. And vice versa, the web can now sell merchandise that’s from our stores, so customers can be shipped items from their local store, which is resulting in fewer broken sales in the web, better use of slow turn merchandise in the stores and faster delivery times for the customer. So all in all, a happier customer.

Helping customers while improving business fundamentals, all the while saving cash - hard to say no to that proposition. The ability to seamlessly sell web inventory in a physical store is a big deal as the retailer is able to save in inventory costs, while not losing a potential sale. Anecdotally, I have heard the ability to order different clothing sizes, colors, and styles from the web (after first trying on in-store) is a big deal. 

The iPad is a very, very powerful device. So in addition to being a register, we can download a lot of content down to the stores, maybe training videos, maybe, Hey, this product sells or this product, the whole market buys it, all the reports, sales reports, a lot of information because it’s a very, very powerful device, and it’s very, very easy to use. A big screen, very, very intuitive. 

That’s a lot of verys.  Not only will Urban Outfitters use the iPad as a point of sale, but it will truly transform the way business is done at the brick and mortar retailer.

Now although this is a mobile device, iPad is a mobile device, we have to set up with the pilots to have it on a swivel arm, so it’s very clean. If it’s not in use, you can take the swivel arm and put the iPad away and you can use this as a packing space or maybe to display more items to sell, et cetera. And then from a customer’s point of view, here’s the customer, return the iPad to the customer, she’s confirming her shipping address. We could also use it to — well, and used to be, for example, a gift registry. A very, very powerful device.

Gift registry. Yet another use for iPad. 

2 or 3 weeks ago, we placed our very last register order. We’re out the register business. Going forward, we had placed the orders. We’ve got some new stores coming up. But once we successfully make sure this iPad works in all the stores, all stores will be designed and equipped with iPod Touches and iPads. And Frank is, again, happy, because the iPad is $1,000 fully installed versus $5,000. But all our stores going forward will have iPads and iTouches.

Regardless of a fully installed iPad’s cost - ranging from $500 to $1000, the price pales in comparison to a cash register’s $5,000 price tag. 

Similar stories and case studies of iPad being used in enterprise are occurring in a range of industries and companies as iPad’s disruptive capabilities are becoming more valuable. iPad’s invasion into enterprise is only getting started.  A full transcript of management’s presentation can be found here

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