Mobile Devices Are Key to Customer Engagement

The retail market is in the midst of a revolution. Never have there been such dramatic shifts in consumer shopping behaviors, preferences and expectations. In retail, the top challenge is always going to start with reaching the customer and, more importantly, reaching the customers on a personal level. Customers are demanding more personalized shopping experiences that are rich in information and retailers need to respond accordingly. To meet the challenges of these connected consumers retailers must enable sales staff to become brand, offer and customer champions. Sales associates need the right information at their fingertips during the moment of truth when customers are making a purchase decision.
A key to reaching customers is being able to create a unified experience with connected devices. This means that retailers need more than just consumer devices, force-fit into a work environment. The mobility transformation is not about technology for technology sake. It is a mindset and commitment to transform business through access to information, better collaboration among people, familiar productivity applications and seamless access to mission critical business solutions.
Retailers need store associates to spend time helping customers select the product they want, when they want it. In order to do this, they should to empower associates with the right tools. Store associates and managers need powerful and convenient handheld devices that fit their unique work demands. They need tools that are easy to use, connect to back end processes and are secure. These tools make an impact by providing solutions that help the store associate better engage in a productive sales discussion with the customer through hints and tips about the sales process. They can also provide insight on the customer's preferences and details about products and services. All of this helps to counter showrooming by driving the customer to a purchase decision on each visit.
It's imperative for retailers to adapt to the world of devices. The best companies will endeavor to put the customer at the heart of their businesses, and this means finding new ways to empower store associates to engage buyers. Sales associates are able to do this if given the right tools – including the right mobile devices, the social capability they increasingly demand and the productivity tools they expect. But realizing this approach requires strategic investments across multiple areas of the business, and it requires IT solutions that are agile, dynamic, and integrated.
Brendan O'Meara is managing director, WW Retail at Microsoft.
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