Walmart’s new tablet is retail's latest gadget gateway

My expanded thoughts from a recent Retail Wire article on Walmart’s plans to launch a private brand tablet.

Well, the owned brand-building boom that I’ve been forecasting for a while is cranking up big time (one of my hottest Retail Trajectories? The Private Brand Palooza.) However, up to this point, consumer electronics has largely been left out of the private brand party. Amazon stands out as an exception with its Fire lineup (more on that in a minute), but national brands still do most of the heavy lifting in the gadgets and gizmos space.

Now, Walmart is changing all that through its introduction of a low-cost tablet under its ONN house brand. Although no launch date has been announced, Walmart’s Android-powered device promises to play a central role in the retailer’s overall plans to crank up consumer electronics.

But why? After all, the tablet market isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. In fact, as smart phones have gotten smarter (and bigger), tablet sales have tanked. But Walmart’s entry into the tablet market isn’t a last-gasp attempt to grab gadget sales. Just as Amazon’s stable of devices are gateways to its e-commerce, entertainment and service ecosystem, Walmart tablets will serve the same purpose. Walmart can pre-load any number of Walmart-friendly apps onto its devices that encourage shoppers to expand their relationship with Walmart. Early reports indicate that kid-friendliness will be a top consideration, so a get-‘em-while-they’re-young agenda makes even more sense.

At the same time, the fact that private brands aren’t as prevalent in consumer electronics as they are in grocery, apparel, home and other categories should give Walmart an edge on value perception.

Gadgets are a gateway. A world of possibility awaits on the other side.