Target store employees have started using the Android-based ZebraTechnologies TC51 as part of the retailer’s MyDevice program for salesfloor activities, stocking and other purposes, replacing the Apple iPod Touch devices that store associates previously used for these functions, Target has confirmed to Retail Dive.
"We began testing the Zebra product as our ‘MyDevice’ in 2016," a Target spokesman told Retail Dive via e-mail. "And since July we’ve had them chain-wide — replacing the previous ‘MyDevice’ used by store team members, which was an iPod Touch." The spokesman declined further comment on the news, first reported by Gizmodo.
A spokeswoman for Zebra also declined to comment on the Target news, but told Retail Dive that several retailers have been testing or using the technology since the Android-based device was announced in November 2016.
The Gizmodo story suggested that switching out the iPod Touch for the Zebra TC51 could affect around 20 to 30 devices used in each Target store, making for a chain-wide impact of about 54,000 devices throughout 1,800 or so Target stores.
That makes this a pretty big win for Zebra and a tough loss for Apple, although it is not clear that Target will completely discontinue use of Apple devices by its store employees. The competitive battle among device makers hoping to sell en masse to retailers could become a very interesting one in the next few years, as a Boston Retail Partners survey earlier this year suggested that 89% of retailers plan to arm their employees with mobile technology in the next three years. Also, a Tulip Retail study showed that customers also favored retailers giving their associates more mobile technology to help them be better at their jobs.
That migration may have not gathered much steam yet, but Target is among the retailers that are not only investing aggressively in such technology, but also continuing to evaluate and enhance their device programs. Target originally used a type of personal digital assistant device as its MyDevice before replacing it with the iPod Touch, but the iPod Touch is now considered antiquated in an age of high-powered mobile smartphones capable of running specialized workforce apps.
It is not clear what kinds of specialized applications and features the iPod Touch devices may have been equipped with, but migrating to the Zebra TC51 appears to be a definitive step up for Target. It has 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity, runs the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system, along with Zebra’s own Mobility DNA software suite. It also has a 1.8 GHz hexa-core 64-bit processor, which can run enterprise apps up to five times faster while consuming 15% less power than other devices running on quad core platforms.
Yet, according to the Gizmodo story, one of the biggest factors in Target's adoption of the device may have been its easily removable and replaceable battery pack. Apparently, store associates equipped with previous devices didn't have time to charge them and couldn't easily swap out new batteries.