The Mobile Revolution Has Left the Hourly Retail Worker Behind, But Conversational Computing Brings Hope


The mobile revolution has transformed the world by spawning massive productivity gains across almost every sector of the world’s economy. Yet even with this unprecedented wave of innovation, one very large group has been left behind: in-store associates. 

Representing the 4th largest employment sector in the US, hourly retail employees are underperforming without instant access to critical information that enables them to do their jobs better. Mobile has been an incredible wealth creator for the professional worker, but the hourly retail worker in the U.S. has lagged far behind. Even as politicians and activists call for higher minimum wages, the best way to lift this expanding part of our economy is to unlock their full potential by bringing the mobile revolution to them.

There is hope with IoT and Conversational Computing

Fortunately, due to the emergence of IoT, conversational computing, and Wi-Fi everywhere, we are seeing an entirely new mobile option emerge that is bringing the mobile revolution to the world’s hourly workforce. These mobile solutions enable hourly workers to remain heads-up and hands-free frees while they are connected to a wireless network with access to new mobile apps; they can also collaborate with their coworkers without using their eyes and hands, but through their ears and their voice. By leveraging the latest advancements in conversational computing, retail associates can use their voice to get the information they need to serve customers and interact with their teammates.

This voice-driven mobile platform for hourly workers is designed much like Amazon’s Alexa for the consumer market. With no screens to create distractions or confusion with customers, this mobile option is designed to meet the unique needs of our growing deskless service workforce.

With a connected workforce, retail executives and store managers can have the freedom and capability to reassign labor in real-time, create a truly on-demand workforce, and have access to employee performance data never before seen within the retail environment. Retailers with an empowered and connected workforce will be able to respond and adapt in this fast-paced, hyper-competitive mobile world. Based on the early results of this new IoT solution, the benefits of mobile will soon arrive for the hourly retail worker and level the playing field at a critical time for retailers.

Retailers using voice-controlled apps to connect associates to each other and to their critical IT systems are unlocking the full potential of a mobile hourly workforce. Our experience shows users are realizing a 12% labor-savings by streamlining communications and improving associate response times to key customer requests by a whopping 77%. Importantly, 91% of associates agree that using a voice-enabled mobile IoT end point for in-store communications helps them serve customers better; 53% strongly agree.

Why can a voice-controlled mobile platform succeed when other mobility solutions have fallen flat? Because an intelligent, in-ear virtual assistant can offer the collective knowledge of the entire workforce and enterprise information systems. This enables employees to be more responsive to customer inquiries without having to stop their conversation with them to search on a mobile device or walk to look-up the information. They’re intuitively easy, too; even the newest associate is ready to be fully engaged and answer any customer question on the first day. Using a small mobile IoT end point and the human voice to get help from an intelligent virtual assistant offers a great customer experience while saving tremendous amounts of labor. The world is moving to an environment driven by intelligent, IOT-connected devices. A mobile IoT end point for each hourly worker is an ideal answer to the workforce that mobile has left behind. 

What’s next?

Intelligent personal assistants, voice-controlled mobile apps and IoT mobile devices create a connected and engaged workforce that is empowered to deliver a truly frictionless customer experience. Instead of being on the defensive to what’s coming next from Amazon and the online eco-system, retailers can now have a mobile platform that enables them to experiment and innovate new and better ways to compete. With tomorrow’s IoT mobile solutions, retailers and retail hourly workers can finally be in a position to lead with mobile to provide incredible customer experiences while using the most natural form of human interaction, their own voices. 

-Chris Todd, president and CEO, Theatro




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