Our world is becoming increasingly digital, and evidence of this is everywhere: from our ability to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world via our smartphones, to being able to complete an entire grocery store run with just a few clicks. This digitization is spreading across every aspect of life, and for retail businesses, the shift is especially cogent.
Think about it: cardboard and paper signs are making way for digital signage, billboards are becoming interactive, customer loyalty programs have made the change from paper to tablets, and we now even have the ability to enter and leave a retail store without interacting with another person through unattended, self-service checkout kiosks. Many of these devices run on the Android operating system, as this infographic shows. Consumers are quickly adopting this new way of shopping, too, with 49.4 percent preferring to use unattended channels due to their speed and ease of access, according to "The Future of Unattended Retail Report: Vending as the New Contextual Commerce," a report from PYMNTS and USA Technologies.
However, with any change comes a new set of challenges, mainly around the implementation, management and control of these unattended channels. For small to midsized businesses (SMBs), these challenges are twofold. One, many SMBs are operating on tight budgets and, two, they're working with small administrative teams that have one or in some cases two IT managers handling all the regular IT responsibilities. This leaves many budget-conscious retail SMBs in a conundrum: Do they hire more IT managers to cover the management of their kiosks, or burden their existing IT teams with extra work?
Thankfully, new technologies have evolved in tandem with these unattended devices that mean retail SMB owners don’t have to choose between a rock and a hard place. One such technology is mobile device management, or MDM.
At a base level, MDM technology helps IT managers simplify and streamline their responsibilities by enabling them to secure, control and enforce company policies on smartphones and other devices. Depending on the provider, MDM can also offer other powerful functionalities like the ability to create and deploy custom applications; bulk — and secure — two-way file transferring capabilities; and in some cases, turn any smart device into a kiosk. These kiosks are only limited to the SMB's imagination, and with the right custom apps can be anything from digital signage or music sampling stations, to digital loyalty punchcards or unattended checkouts.
Needless to say, this technology is a boon for budget-conscious SMBs, with many dedicated kiosk vendors costing anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 for the infrastructure alone, according to CostOwl.com, with additional and ongoing costs incurred for upkeep. For IT managers, MDM enables them to have better control and security, ensure devices are updated in a timely manner, and increase productivity — and save time — through streamlining their responsibilities. But how exactly does MDM do this? The best way to understand is through drawing a comparison.
Imagine that a small retail business with three store locations across a major metropolitan city has just installed self-serve kiosks at a significant cost through a third-party vendor. The vendor states that upkeep and maintenance is simple, but requires an IT manager to diagnose and rectify any issues on-site. On one particular rainy day, network issues cause each of the self-service kiosks to malfunction, in each location. Already stressed, thanks to multiple phone calls from frazzled retail employees, the IT manager gets in his car to drive to each site to rectify the issue. Thanks to the inclement weather, this takes a significant amount of time. By the time he's finished correcting the problems, the work day is over, and the IT manager still has a pile of other, regular responsibilities sitting on his desk waiting to be completed. In short, he can’t keep up.
By implementing the right MDM solution, however, the small retail business can re-purpose a smart device — a tablet, for example — as a fully branded, unattended kiosk for the cost of the device and the cost of the MDM solution. The IT manager can control these devices from the comfort of his desk. For example, he can define the kiosks’ capabilities, lock them to specific functions, deploy any updates, and conduct timely, routine maintenance to curb the incidence of malfunctions. In the event that any issues arise regarding these kiosks, the IT manager can remotely view and take control of the device to rectify any issues (aside from physical damage) without having to drive to the location. Furthermore, the IT manager can enhance the security of these unattended devices through remote surveillance, which enables him to remotely use the device’s camera to see what's happening around the device itself.
The digitization of retail isn’t set to slow down or wind back anytime soon, and the time and money-saving benefits of MDM in enabling IT managers to keep up are clear. Through implementing the right MDM technology, retail SMBs are not only able to stay ahead of the digital curve, but also empower their IT personnel to secure, control and manage these unattended channels as effectively as possible. In short: with MDM, IT managers can keep up.
Anson Shiong is CEO of Sand Studio, whose flagship product AirDroid Business is an Android mobile device management solution for small businesses and enterprises.
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Anson Shiong is CEO of Sand Studio, the developer of mobile device management (MDM) solution for Android devices, AirDroid Business. AirDroid Business empowers businesses to be in complete control of their Android devices across multiple locations, enabling administrators to manage, monitor and perform maintenance on remote devices.