Retailers Struggle to Effectively Utilize In-Store Mobility
The last several years have been transformative for the retail industry, as new technology moved into the brick-and-mortar space by way of mobile devices in the hands of associates and managers. Harnessing the power these mobile devices provide is indeed exciting, as they help deliver personalized customer experiences and offer in-store encounters between customers and store associates which cannot be duplicated online. However, implementing these ideas hasn't always been seamless. Recently at Stratix, we partnered with IHL Group to survey some of the largest retailers in the country. After gathering results from participating establishments, the findings show that most retailers are facing significant challenges when utilizing mobile technology in-store.
Key findings from the survey suggest that there are three noteworthy challenges for retailers attempting to handle in-store mobility.
Having the Proper Applications
The survey found that 75.2 percent of participants are challenged to have the right mobile applications in place to provide sales assistance to the customer by looking up past orders, doing inventory checks, “endless aisle” searching of additional products, or completing the sale using mobile point of sale.
Because of this, retailers know they're losing out on opportunities, but their hands are often tied when trying to catch up to the pace especially if custom application development is needed. Earlier this year, Gartner reported that while the number of mobile apps deployed across all enterprises is relatively flat, the backlog of enterprise apps in development has risen significantly, from 2.9 applications per enterprise on average in 2016 to 6.2 in 2017.
Lack of Manpower
Staffing is always a challenge for retailers, but 60.3 percent of respondents stated that having a lack of a trained workforce to manage mobile devices was a major challenge in deploying mobile solutions in-store. Specifically, the food, drug, convenience, mass and warehouse categories believe this task is their No. 1 issue, as 86.5 percent of those retailers surveyed specified that staffing levels haven't kept up with rising needs, and employees that have mobile expertise are difficult to hire and even harder to keep on staff.
In addition to a shortage of staff to handle mobile devices, there's also a concern over the deficit of internal helpdesk support to handle mobile users and troubleshoot problems. Consider that 59.5 percent of respondents said that the absence of proper support has been a crucial deterrent from successfully embracing mobile technology.
What's perhaps most frustrating is that customers seek a differentiated shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores than they do online, and their interaction with a highly trained, professional associate capable of using mobile to guide the shopping experience is a key part of this differentiation. In fact, TimeTrade’s 2017 State of Retail report revealed 49 percent of consumers would be willing to pay more for products or services if they had personalized in-store experiences, such as mobile interactions with associates. However, this requires that mobility solutions are deployed at the right time and executed correctly in order to be effective.
2017 continued to see consumers shop in brick-and-mortar stores, with over 90 percent of all dollars spent still spent in-store. But the customer experience of in-store shopping must be different from that online. Mobile can be a key part of that differentiation, with associates using mobile solutions in-store to better guide shoppers. The challenges of mobility must be overcome to deliver on the promises of mobility in retail. A managed mobile services provider can often provide the expertise and manpower needed to make this successful and overcome the challenges mentioned here.
Gary Lee is the chief solutions officer at Stratix, a managed mobile services provider.