Changing Store Models Mean C-Suite Must Harness Technology Change Initiatives
We've become increasingly accustomed to reading about retailers closing dozens of stores, while countless new technologies promise to revitalize those remaining. Retailers experimenting with lifesaving tools are overwhelmed by the options. Some executives are signing off on systems meant to change how their employees work and interact with customers (a good thing), but with no vehicle to ensure success. Many new platforms are severely underutilized because the all-important, customer-facing associate isn’t comfortable using the technology. Retailers are missing the mark and need to re-prioritize brick-and-mortar technologies to focus on store associates and the customers they serve.
Senior executives need to understand that now is the time to harness change initiatives. Before investing in another store system, decision makers need to take a step back and consider the real value of that technology to customers. Areas that need to be evaluated include the following:
- How will associates use it to meet in-store consumers’ demands?
- How can management best communicate to hundreds of associates about the new technology, as well as train them on it?
Just as a house can’t be built without framing it first, new store systems can’t be delivered without a solid method of supporting store associates, increasing their comfort level with new initiatives, communicating instantly to and from an entire workforce (store, district and region), and objectively assessing new system effectiveness.
Mobile is a Key Disruptor
Technology will continue to disrupt physical store operations, and mobile is leading the transformation. In addition to allowing consumers to research products and prices while in-store, tablets in particular provide sales associates with the tools they need to meet consumers’ demands and deliver exceptional service. Mobile also allows the instant, two-way communications that help retailers better support their associates.
Associate mobile devices enhance the shopping experience through access to real-time inventory and customer data as well as the ability to service customers and process transactions anywhere in the store. In a Boston Retail Partners study, 89 percent of retailers said they plan to offer mobile solutions to their store associates within three years. The same study noted that in most cases, mobile applications can be developed internally in a fraction of the time required to implement a complete mobile point-of-sale solution. It also noted that retailers often focus on the technical solution and overlook the accompanying process work required to enable a successful implementation.
Change Driven by mACP (mobile Associate Communications Platform)
Successful retail leaders can arm themselves with scientific communications platforms (such as mACP) and technologies that build a new level of efficiency, associate and customer engagement, and in-store sales success. Senior executives must embrace technologies that assure their store associates know more about products than the very knowledgeable shoppers walking in.
In a recent industry study titled, Consumer In-Store Shopping Survey, 79 percent of survey respondents said knowledgeable store associates are “important” or “very important." Of those consumers that responded, 72 percent said that they had a much better shopping experience when they dealt with a store associate who used a mobile device to provide things like product info, credit card checkout, and inventory look-up. Nearly 50 percent said a knowledgeable store associate who is able to suggest products based on their purchase history would encourage them to shop in-store.
When used effectively, mobile can help physical stores meet consumers’ higher expectations. Senior executives can be more successful rolling out new store technologies and helping associates slide into and embrace new initiatives that sharpen their knowledge and enhance the in-store customer experience. Before a senior executive signs off on systems designed to improve how employees work and interact with customers, be sure there's a vehicle in place to ensure that change’s success. Because change will continue to challenge your business.
David Harouche is CEO and CTO of Multimedia Plus, a mobile associate communication platform.