2018 Mobile Products and Solutions Guide: The Mobile-First Enterprise

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Retailers need an enterprise-wide mobile strategy in order to succeed in the modern retail environment. No longer just a project, mobility should be a unified part of the full retail ecosystem, from customers to employees. Retailers are quickly deploying mobility into their in-store battle plans, expanding mobile checkout solutions and weaving the digital experience into shoppers’ journeys inside brick-and-mortar.

Meanwhile, educating and empowering employees is needed to differentiate, and mobile technology is the enabler. Connecting workers to efficient systems and giving them technology that keeps them informed in real-time will take their customer service capabilities to the next level. Unifying their voice from the front line to the back office provides valuable insights.

This year’s Mobile Products & Solutions Guide examines how innovative retailers are leveraging this powerful tool to improve the shopping experience and increase loyalty among associates.


Mobility: An Integral Part of the Retail Enterprise

Mobile strategy must encompass the back-end to the front-end and the employees to the customers, in order for retailers to succeed in a competitive marketplace

Mobile technology is the Swiss Army knife of retail. This do-it-all tool benefits retail operations from back-end to front-end, improving both the customer and employee experience. But to be successful, your mobile strategy needs to be connected throughout the enterprise. Mobility should not be thought of as a project by project opportunity, but instead, as an integrated strategy that seamlessly fits into the full retail ecosystem

Mobile is at the heart of retailers’ technology investment plans over the next year, as retailers invest in both consumer and associate facing technologies, according to BRP, “Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations.” The report finds mobile POS (50%), in-store mode for customer mobile app (44%), associate mobile devices (42%) and contactless payment (38%) are leading the charge to add efficiency, productivity and experience in the store.

“Retailers are prioritizing mobile for checkout and associate enablement while offering consumers services such as WiFi and contactless payment,” according to the report. “This is good news as retailers understand that Millennials and Gen-Z will expect these technologies as part of their experience.”

One of the problems plaguing retail is the lack of engaged and loyal employees that are capable of improving and enhancing the customer experience. In the customer-centric store, knowledgeable and helpful employees are a must and mobile has the ability to turn an average associate into a superstar. In addition, workers are beginning to expect a better employee experience and younger candidates entering the workplace are at ease with mobile technology. Mobile solutions can offer control and flexibility over schedules and better communication with the company so workers can gain real-time information to perform their jobs at a high level. 

Yet, RIS finds “one of the best tools – mobile devices – is underutilized today, notably for store managers,” in its “Store Execution Versus Chaos Battle Plan” research report. Seventy-seven percent of retailers said their stores are currently equipped with mobile devices for regional/field managers, but only 57% for managers and 33% for associates. In the grocery sector, 51% of grocery retailers are up-to-date or upgrading mobile devices for managers, while 50% are this far along with mobile workforce and/or HR applications, according to RIS’s “3rd annual tech trends study 2018: Digital Transformation Accelerates” report. 

To improve employee communications, fast fashion retailer H&M recently deployed a new robust workforce management solution to handle task management, chat apps, e-mail and employee onboarding with an all-in-one interface across its US organization of more than 15,000 employees. The solution provides secure, real-time, two-way communication and collaboration between desk and non-desk workers. 

“With a geographically dispersed workforce that is 80% mobile, it’s crucial for us to connect in one place,” said Luca Michelangeli, marketing manager, H&M USA. “When we rolled this out to our employees, they knew how to use it immediately.”

Beyond mobile use for employees, it’s important to realize shopping has become a digital journey, one that doesn’t stop when customers enter the store. Inside stores 46% of consumers are using mobile devices, BRP’s “Retail’s Digital Crossroads” report found. What are they doing? Eighty-three percent are comparing prices, while 78% are looking at reviews, said the report. 

Top retailers are quickly deploying mobility into their in-store battle plans, expanding mobile checkout solutions in time for the 2018 holiday season so customers can bypass regular checkout lines and pay for everything in the department they are shopping. 

Target recently rolled out mobile checkout to all stores nationwide. Using specially-equipped handheld devices, employees scan shoppers’ items and accept payment by credit card on the spot from anywhere in the store. Last year, Target introduced technology that allows employees to place Target.com orders for shoppers directly from the sales floor and have the purchases shipped to their doorsteps.

Likewise, Walmart is positioning associates equipped with its Check Out With Me mobile POS technology in the busiest areas of its stores for the holiday season. The associates help customers pay and go by swiping their credit card and providing them with a paper or electronic receipt for their purchase. 

To additionally ease the in-store experience, both Target and Walmart are offering shoppers localized store maps in their respective mobile apps. Target’s maps clearly identify where specific Black Friday deals are located within each Target store. Walmart’s store maps allow shoppers to search for an item in-store or at home and the map will show the item’s exact location in their local store. 

Meanwhile, to create a more engaging shopper experience, Foot Locker recently released an update to its mobile app that integrates augmented reality (AR) for scavenger hunts. The footwear retailer is leveraging this emerging technology platform to offer customers exclusive content and experiences timed to limited-release product drops.

“Foot Locker has always looked for new ways to elevate the shopping experience for our customers,” noted Frank Bracken, VP and GM of Foot Locker, U.S. “It was a natural evolution to embrace AR, taking our scavenger hunts to the next level.”

Weaving customers and shopper uses together, Nordstrom Local stores do double duty with their mobile devices. In stores, iPads are available so personal stylists can use them during their customer styling appointments, but customers are also welcome to peruse Nordstrom.com on the devices as well. The iPads are kept out on tables for customer, salespeople and personal stylist use.

But just having mobile devices in the store isn’t a simple recipe for success. IHL Group found that three items must be in place for mobile success. Its report “Retail’s Top 5 Challenges When Deploying Mobile” finds retailers need associates to be properly trained on using mobile devices (to not lose eye contact) and be able to use them for side-by-side transactions – solving the customer problem – so the customer can see what the employee is doing. Additionally the mobile solution must not be a replacement, but an enhancement to the sales process.

Employing mobility to connect the retail enterprise is a necessary investment. Getting the right mix of technology to seamlessly fit into the enterprise and provide real value to consumers and employees is the art of winning retailers. There is still time to perfect this recipe and those who do will come out on top.  

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