As constant change and pace of technology remains rife among brick-and-mortar establishments, retail operations continue to expand and justly, can be difficult to manage at times.
On the grounds of managing these said challenges retailers face, vital tools and resources such as supported mobility is necessary to keep cost manageable, while speeding up day-to-day operations. From the warehouse to sales rack, there’s a never-ending need for seamless connection of operations — inventory management, shipping, data collection and the sales funnel all rely on efficient end-to-end mobility.
While many retailers have recently employed mobile solutions, there are still widespread enterprise issues with integrating software that employees feel comfortable operating. Sleek, new mobile applications can make for more agile workforces and speed up the production process, but they are only effective if employees can understand and properly utilize the software.
Because the success of mobile applications is so closely tied to employee usage, it is imperative for retailers to include end users in the development process of these applications. For retailers, there are many different types of end users within the enterprise.
From the sales associate using a mobile POS in-store to checkout customers to warehouse staff using tablets for inventory management, retailers must think of the nuances every end user may face. According to Stratix data, retailers deploying mobility for associates expect revenues to be 146 percent higher. With end users a part of the software integration process, there will be less of a learning curve from the start and more of a seamless experience through the journey of day-to-day mobile usage — especially when device updates occur.
How mobile optimizes retail operations
Constant updates to mobile solutions are augmenting the way retailers manage internal operations. Today, we are seeing this come to fruition through the use of mobile devices in store — helping sales associates convert sales at higher rates and warehouses handle logistics more efficiently.
On the back end, warehouses have multiple uses for mobile solutions to help ease the routine of employees and increase performance along the supply chain. Warehouse staff can work anywhere to track shipments, easily make changes or even correct mistakes on the go. Some retailers even mount tablets on forklifts for inventory management.
For the front of the house, tablets and smartphones can be outfitted with card readers and barcode scanners to offer easy checkout during high traffic hours and price check items for customers. The goal is engaging customers and offer a seamless shopping experience. Store associates can complete former back-office tasks such as product fulfillment and inventory checks in real time to speed up the shopping process and complete sales at a higher rate. Mobile has many applications for retailers and incorporating all end users within the enterprise is critical to utilize to its full potential.
Seamless mobile integration
The benefits of enterprise mobility seem bountiful, but retailers need to be careful when scaling out new software integration. While operations can be optimized across the board, end users need to be both involved and supported when the updates roll out. The top challenges we see in mobile integration are:
· Having the right mobile applications
· Lack of proper staff to manage mobility
· Managing mobile security
Mobile solutions need to run in accordance with the proper applications end users need to complete their daily tasks. This includes operational support on all applications to ensure that everything runs smoothly, especially in critical situations. According to a survey by Stratix, 75 percent of retailers label lack of proper applications as a challenge in their operations. Working with a mobile solutions provider can ensure that the proper applications are created and supported for each retail environment, and that end users are able to use applications suitably.
Mobile solutions providers can offer the bandwidth to support entire fleets of mobile devices. Top internal IT teams may not be able to offer adequate support on enterprise mobile solutions. Support must be 24-7 365, which could be a daunting task for many internal teams. This is a major struggle for companies with 60 percent of retailers saying a lack of staff and help-desk support is a major challenge. Providing a seamless end user experience involves device logistics and management as well as integrating critical devices with direct OEM support.
Mitigating security risks is another major factor in implementing mobile solutions. According to our data, 45 percent of retailers mention managing mobile security as a significant challenge in deploying mobile solutions. With a large volume of critical devices, retailers need to be careful regarding lost or stolen devices. With full support, a company can lock or wipe these devices quickly. We are also starting to see many employees integrating their personal devices into company fleets, making security more of a top priority. Employing authentication methods can secure company and personal data and coordinating with end users during this process can ensure that all security measures are followed accurately.
The future of mobile
Tech innovations are changing the mobile landscape and making it imperative for end users to remain connected with developers. These innovations can make operations easier for retailers, but only if they are capable of managing the new mobile processes across all parts of the moving ecosystem.
Soon enough, retailers will prepare users for a number of mobile innovations including:
· Augmented/Virtual Reality
· Artificial Intelligence in operations and logistics
· Wearable devices
· Expanded voice integration.
These innovations will shift how retailers handle their entire operations, and these updates can further propel retailers if they build user-friendly and interconnected platforms. Integrating current and existing employees into the expansion of new software programs is needed to achieve business objectives and creating an upfront dialogue between developers and end users averts the misuse of mobile platforms.
As the landscape of retail continues towards more agile and innovative solutions, incorporating end users into development discussions is more important than ever. The benefits of mobile solutions are immense if end users and developers are on the same page. It is much easier to involve employees from the beginning than to risk a lack of cohesion from software developers to implementing operations.
The future of retail is mobile and with these new advancements coming to the forefront, retailers should be excited of the possibilities that enhances experiences for sales associates warehouse staff and ultimately, customers. From smart watches and lenses to applications that optimize shipping before an employee has to manually, the future of retail is very bright.
Marco Nielsen is vice president, managed mobility services of Stratix.