Why Retailers Are Missing Out If They Aren't Mobilized
June 2012 Integrated Solutions For Retailers
By Adrian Schauer, president and CEO, Vortex Connect
The age of mobility has arrived. Retailers have little time to waste before adopting a mobile strategy.
The Apple Store proved long ago the implicit value and practicality of mobilizing the customer experience. And, even though mobility has been part of inventory management for over a decade for most grocery retailers, it’s only in recent years that retailers of all shapes and sizes have started to open their eyes to the benefit of a mobile strategy.
Slowly, they are coming to realize that mobilization has impact across the vast landscape of their operation, from the point of purchase right through to inventory management, and including staffing, messaging, and customer relations.
With the cost of investing in mobility decreasing at a rapid rate, and the introduction of robust and secure mobile device management tools, we are witnessing the biggest shift in enterprise software since the advent of the Internet.
The movement is further spurred by a user population that expects, needs, and wants “mobility.” As an interesting side note, one of the early obstacles for Web-based software in retail was simply accessing an Internet connection in every store! Ironically, mobility laughs in the face of connectivity constraints.
While it used to take minutes to pull up a schedule for a larger retail operation, now the manager can pull up and edit the schedule in the time it used to take to walk to the back office. It is nice to acknowledge that the barriers to entry for mobility have diminished greatly, but it is also important to appreciate the implicit value of mobility for the operational side of the store. Let’s look at it from the manager’s and the associate’s points of view:
- Having managers on the floor necessarily translates into greater conversion rates and increased basket size. Often, when the best sales person is promoted, they spend more time with customers, mentor seasoned associates, and train new associates, resulting in improved sales. If managers can access and edit schedules, close out payroll, approve requests, and view and complete tasks all from a device in their pocket, they can avoid the need to leave the floor.
- Employee turnover is reduced if their engagement is increased and if they are given more control of their schedule. It isn’t news for retailers, but by giving associates the opportunity to see and interact with their schedule, review their time, request time off, and swap with other associates, they will be less likely to jump ship the next time Lady Gaga comes to town. A consistent and reliable staff translates into a cohesive staff, and a cohesive staff results in increased sales.
It is also important to consider the impact of mobilizing task management and store communications and the key strategies needed to deploy a successful mobile workforce management strategy:
- Ensure your organizations’ workforce management systems (time and attendance and scheduling) are mobile-ready. Most are. Some have mobile as part of their core offering, and others have mobile partners such as Vortex Connect, which provides a mobile layer to their offering.
- Decide if you want your associates to have access, and if so, what information is confidential and off limits. Viewing schedules and requesting a swap of a shift are legitimate, but what about reviewing timesheets and even editing? You will want to make the same determinations for your managers — what can they see and what can’t they see and do from the device. It is probably best to leverage your mobile partners or WFM solution providers for guidance for this step.
- You should also consider the data implications of opening your doors. Truthfully, employee self-service is not a significant concern for most organizations, but on the manager side, especially if you consider organizationally owned devices, you need to explore a mobile device management (MDM) solution. These products manage all security for your devices and your data. If a manager loses a device, you can remotely wipe it of all data in a matter of seconds.
- With MDM, BYOD (bring your own device) comes into the decision. MDM is set up for pro and anti-BYOD environments. BYOD is a policy that needs to be set at the organizational level and it addresses whether or not staff at various levels can access the data from their own device. If you have a BYOD policy, it should only be implemented with a great MDM solution as a support.
Those are four very high level beacons on your pathway to mobility. The time is now for retailers to complete the mobile revolution inside their stores, because if they don’t, they will surely miss out.