The ubiquitous smartphone in the hand of the consumer changes everything for retailers. Five years ago, the response by most companies to the savvy consumer with a smartphone was the introduction of store apps and mobile payment options. This initiative continues to play out as store apps and automated payment options become more advanced.
Two years ago, another trend began in retail and mobility: the use of mobile devices by store employees. Mobile barcode scanners have been in use for years, but this new wave of mobility put consumer-type mobile devices at the center of customer interactions. The device of choice tended to be a tablet, no different than one a consumer might have.
Mobile-connected devices in the hands of customer-facing employees have a significant effect on the traditional in-store retail experience. First, the device helps to bring together the online and in-store experience. Now, store associates can respond to the all-too-common inquiry that starts with, “I saw something online … ” by visiting the website with the consumer by their side. This is part of evolving clienteling efforts and enhancing the customer experience.
The second common impact of mobile devices in retail affects line-busting duties. The beauty of a tablet is its multipurpose nature. A retailer device could be checking inventory one minute and handling a sales transaction the next.
New uses of mobile devices continue to emerge within the industry, but this trend has also brought its fair share of challenges. How do retailers effectively manage these mobile devices that have grown to be integral to the customer experience?
Many retailers are turning to a mobility management platform (MMP) for help. This software mimics the corporate structure of a retailer, centralizing all data in one location to increase visibility at all levels of the organization. The software also stays current with a retailer’s organization via integration with any existing corporate systems. This allows mobile devices to be assigned to stores with accurate cost allocations and defined cost centers. All activities pertaining to these devices are logged and tracked — everything from initial procurement through device retirement.
The best return on investment is delivered by retailer mobile devices when a lifecycle management process supports the program. Ideally, this process isn't simply spreadsheets kept by an overburdened IT staff, but purpose-built, configurable software with workflows governed by specific business rules. This way, the software performs repetitive, routine tasks while IT works on more strategic initiatives.
A common error made by retailers is thinking device first and management second. Devices often reach store employees with little, if any, thought dedicated to efficient mobility management and support. When a procurement is made without effective management, critical information about the early life of the device is lost forever. Implementing a MMP at the time of mobile device deployment can save both time and money compared to adding a software platform later.
Are you thinking about putting the power of mobile devices in the hands of your store associates? These devices have the potential to greatly improve your customers’ in-store experiences. To optimize this investment, however, make sure to deploy mobility management software at the same time as your mobile device inventory.
Chris Koeneman is the senior vice president of sales at MOBI, cloud-based software that centralizes and automates management of mobile devices by integrating with wireless carriers, MDMs and corporate IT systems.