Previously on the Econsultancy blog we’ve reviewed the Marks & Spencer multichannel experience after its site redesign.

And while the market is still out on the new website, we think moving towards an improved digital offering is of critical importance to the company’s longer term success.

Keeping my eye on the retail landscape, one area that has been spoken about is the use of interactive tablets and displays in-store,  and a recent DigitasLBi survey revealed that 43% of internet-shopping consumers had used multimedia shopping aids of this kind

On my wanderings about Oxford Street, I noticed that M&S had quite a few of these dotted around. I thought I would test it out and see what it was like.

How it looks

While the Press Office page has much nicer photography than mine (see above), the below has been taken ‘in use’.

There appear to be two sizes of tablet set up in M&S. The first is a large set up which appears on its own (around three feet / a metre long).

The other is a smaller device (two feet to sixty centremeters in length), which is usually either part of a display (in the first example, next to bedding) or close to the payment desk (second example).

Both have integrated scanners and a card reader for purchases. The smaller one also has a printer.

The tablets are given prominence within the store and the screen changes to display promotions and calls-to-action.

There appears to be a myriad of functionality in the tablet.

Product browsing

First of all you can browse the product catalogue, as this Vine shows.

Barcode scanning

You can also scan barcodes to see product details, with the option to add to basket.

Watch me scan the bowl – it’s mesmerising…

Buyer’s guides

The tablet can also walk you through purchasing decisions. The one near the duvets asked me a series of questions before suggesting which bedding I should buy.

Buying items and printing shopping lists

You can buy on the tablet as well – and if you don’t have an email address you can print out a shopping list.

Unfortunately there was no unique barcode or reference number on the shopping list which would have tied the use of the tablet back to any purchase.

I also tried emailing the shopping list but unfortunately received nothing in my inbox (I checked the spelling and the spam folder – nothing there).

The keyboard was also difficult to use as the keys were too small and there was too much latency – leading to that frustrating experience of pressing a letter, waiting to see if it was correct, and then proceeding to either hit the backspace key or put in the next letter.

Is this the future?

It’s yet to be seen whether in-store tablets like the M&S example above will be the future of retail on the high street. But it’s an interesting experiment none the less.

What do you think?