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Exploring the iPad’s potential

Direct marketers and e-commerce merchants taking the iPad for a test drive are still feeling out the popular mobile product’s marketing capabilities. Best practices for harnessing the nascent device’s full power have yet to emerge, say industry experts.

Some marketers and multichannel merchants believe sticking their toes into the space in its early stages will prove beneficial, says Brad Wolansky, CEO of The Golf Warehouse, a golf equipment and apparel retailer with iPad and iPhone apps.

“I think iPad will shine when the apps give users an experience unlike anywhere else, but it will take time to get there,” he says. “It will be up to developers and of users to find out how best make use of the device, whether for shopping, news or information.”

“The iPad is the first floor of what will be a very tall building,” says Matt Jarvis, managing director and chief strategy officer at interactive agency 72andSunny. “It will get better and more useful, because Apple is one of the best companies at listening and evolving. Right now, the first draft is more a function of vision than consumer insight.”

The iPad’s functionality is a hybrid of mobile and the traditional Internet. However, the best practices used in those channels don’t strictly apply to the iPad, said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i.

Marketers must also acknowledge that consumers interact with the iPad differently than they do with an iPhone or other smartphones. Whereas mobile devices lend themselves to in-store interactions, such as barcode scanning and product comparisons, iPad users are generally stationary.

“The iPad delivers a platform that’s perfect for higher value products less frequently purchased, where people spend more time with the brand before purchasing, looking at products from a lot of different angles,” Jarvis said.

Apple will also improve the viability of the iPad as a marketing channel through the release of its iAd advertising unit. “Mobile spending continues to lag behind mobile usage, but the iAd will spur marketers to catch up to what consumers are already doing,” Berkowitz said.

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