How IT Mobility Helps Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Thrive
The brick-and-mortar retail model has changed quite significantly in recent years in response to the continued growth of e-commerce. To understand why, it’s illustrative to ask what it is about the e-commerce model that appeals so strongly to consumers. It isn’t the deals — in fact, online shopping is sometimes more expensive depending on what you’re buying — nor is it the speed; after all, you can visit a store in an afternoon as compared to waiting a day or two for a delivery. Rather, online shopping is growing because of the flexibility it affords. Want to buy something right away? You can purchase it online via your phone while you’re waiting in line for coffee. We refer to this as mobility when working with retailers at Brother International Corporation, as these businesses need their staff and IT infrastructure to become vastly more mobile if they’re going to be able to provide the flexibility today's consumers demand. In plain English, how can the customer’s in-store shopping experience become even easier?
There are many ongoing, very visible developments with regard to retail mobility. New thinking has invigorated every step of a product's journey from when it arrives in a warehouse to when it’s leaving the store with the customer. In reverse order, perhaps nowhere are these changes clearer than the point of sale (POS), which has been a major frustration for modern shoppers. Is there anything more discouraging than making a trip to a retail location only to see a checkout line snaking through the store? Long lines cause lower sales, and again, speaking from recent experience, fighting through lines simply to pay is so detrimental it can have multiplier effects, as the bad memory turns off customers from future visits.
One way to enable mobility at the POS is giving a store’s employees devices to let them check out customers in the store anytime, anywhere. Staff members can also answer consumer questions on the spot and stay on the sales floor with shoppers, giving them more information and attention. Retailers can partner with third parties to implement IT infrastructure that can be held in the palm of a hand in the most efficient manner within the layout of a store, enabling staff to spend less time running back and forth to check a computer, and more time with the customer.
Another area in which Brother works closely with retailers is the burgeoning field of in-store pickup. While e-commerce items can be bought as fast as the consumer can click, the actual receipt of the good is in many instances delayed by shipping. In-store pickup eliminates this friction. However, developing the pickup service at retail businesses that haven’t been custom-built for warehouse coordination is fraught with challenges. Again, customers can be discouraged from future visits if their product isn't ready for them when it should be.
“Ship from store” is the other side of the coin. When retailers ship e-commerce orders from individual retail locations instead of remote distribution centers, it can not only reduce delivery costs, but also leverage inventory and avoids markdowns. Ship-from-store is another great example of how retail mobility can unlock the full potential of existing resources. Brother is usually called in to orchestrate this delicate dance in the most efficient manner possible, beginning with the “pick ticket.” Exactly as it sounds, this is a ticket generated every time a customer orders online so that warehouse or retail staff can pick the item and ready it to be shipped. Workers need to move quickly and know exactly what items they need to prepare, and where to get them, maximizing mobility.
From the warehouse to the shopping aisle, the primary area of focus for brick-and-mortar retailers is, and should be, returning the sense of fun and convenience to modern consumers, and this is equally true for mom-and-pop shops as much as it is multinationals. To meet the challenges created by online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers must evolve their processes to grow in an era when consumers expect to get what they want when they want it.
Michael Zolot is the director of sales for retail and hospitality for Brother International Corporation, and has been with the organization for over 11 years. Michael’s team regularly work with retailers and partners across the country to integrate Brother’s solutions into retailers’ stores, warehouses, and corporate facilities.
Michael Zolot is the Director of Sales for Retail & Hospitality for Brother International Corporation and has been with the organization for over 11 years. Michael’s team regularly work with retailers and partners across the country to integrate Brother’s solutions into retailers’ stores, warehouses, and corporate facilities.