Meeting the retail challenge with mobile technology
Intense online competition requires traditional retailers to scale up their own e-commerce enterprises and find latent value in bricks-and-mortar stores, especially if faced with a reduction in foot traffic. While there have been significant advances in delivering on the customer experience online, the pressure is on for retail stores themselves to meet growing customer expectations.
Today, retail salespeople need to balance competing demands, handling operational tasks while interacting with customers and immediately responding to their requests in order to bolster the all-important in-store experience. These more fluid processes can result in inaccurate orders, inefficient bundling, and other errors that drive up labour costs, while employee satisfaction can also suffer if staff feel like they are being pulled in too many different directions at once.
New retail specific mobile technologies can drive efficiency and productivity in store operations and improve the customer experience. Managers can determine clear accountability, with software tracking both the assignment of tasks and acknowledgement by employees and take advantage of greater inventory visibility by tracking products from dock to shelf.
Given its unpredictable nature, the retail floor demands a multimodal workflow that equips users with a variety of tools to handle whatever comes their way. A less-bulky handheld mobile computer makes salespeople appear more approachable and works in tandem with other devices, enabling users to not only communicate and confirm work easily, but also view pictures of products and inventory locations, type on a keyboard, or scan barcodes.
While justifying an investment in new technology requires building a business case, in the fast-changing, hyper-competitive retail world, stores must also weigh the cost of not investing. What is the cost of an out-of-stock item? Do in-store operations print or use paper-based processes? What data drives workforce and process management?
With advanced in-store technologies deployed in a retail environment, key performance indicators like productivity, and out-of-stocks can significantly improve. Stores can improve fulfillment accuracy levels, and combining processes, such as changing price labels while stocking, and using mobile computing to drive in-store fulfillment reduces travel time and increases worker productivity up to 20%. Finally, system-driven restocking proactively alerts store associates and can cut out-of-stocks on shelves by 25%. This greater shelf availability can increase in-store sales by 1%, which can translate into significant revenues for any retailer operating in a challenging environment.
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