The Rising Importance of MDM and UEM to Enterprise Mobility in Retail


As competition in the apparel industry has intensified, apparel and fashion retailers have had to focus ever more intently on the customer experience. With the shift from brick-and-mortar to online occurring across broad swaths of the apparel industry, the customer's in-store experience becomes even more important. Those apparel retailers who are embracing digital transformation (DX) initiatives designed to address the customer experience, and embedding a culture of continual innovation into their operations, will be among the survivors, if not leaders, in their segment.

The apparel industry cannot escape the inevitable impact of the empowered consumer, and market hyper-competitiveness, or the dramatic impact from DX and the new omnichannel retail realities. To be successful, forward thinking retailers have broadened their focus across all of the possible customer touchpoints, to deliver a seamless, consistent and immersive experience along the customer journey and for each customer interaction with the retailer.

In fact, according to IDC’s recent survey, the apparel industry is taking as active an approach to DX as any retail sector. This is driven not only by necessity but the result of this sector's acute hyper-competitiveness. While still only 5.4 percent of apparel and accessory retailers report that their DX initiatives are delivering real-time insights to drive optimizations in processes and workflows to yield business results, this number is well above where most other retail sectors are reporting their DX efforts.

Mobile strategies are a foundation of DX initiatives, particularly among the apparel and accessories industry. With more and more of the customer journey including touchpoints that are occurring from a mobile device, the mobile platform has emerged as a focal point for developing and distinguishing the seamless and frictionless customer experience.

In our 2018 Industry IT & Communications survey, 94 percent of responding apparel and accessories companies said that mobile devices, platforms, apps and services are drivers of their digital transformation currently, or would be within 1-2 years. Small wonder, then, that two-thirds (67.5 percent) of apparel and accessories retailers report current mobile device initiatives in production at the business-unit level or enterprise wide, highlighting the importance of mobile strategies for this industry.

Retailers have increasingly found that DX requires not only leveraging the mobile platform in play during the customer journey, but also rethinking of the role of mobile technology for the retail management and staff. Currently, the apparel and accessories retail sector focuses nearly 60 percent of its development of new mobile apps on consumer/customer-oriented applications, with the other 40 percent focused on enterprise apps for employees or partners.

While examples of retailers in the apparel sector deploying mobile devices within the enterprise are not plentiful, we expect to see an increasing number of apparel retailers doing what Kohl's is doing — deploying devices — or implementing Bring your Own Device (BYOD) policies — to enable store staff to check out customers within the store. The apparel sector is also active in the deployment of IOT (Internet of Things), which will add more devices to the retail store environment.

The proliferation of mobile devices — and increasingly to a broader range of devices and endpoints within the enterprise — has heightened the need for better mobile device management (MDM) and unified endpoint management (UEM). To address these challenges, technology vendors offer a range of solutions, creating an overlapping landscape of solutions that can be confusing to navigate. The most critical solutions available today fall into four key categories:

·        Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions manage the deployment, enrollment, and provisioning of mobile devices, also including capabilities such as distributing software applications and updates to the devices, providing remote lock/wipe capabilities, and managing policy and compliance.

·        The Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) segment has emerged to manage an expanding number of operating systems within the enterprise as well as the deployment, configuration, and management of the growing number and rage of endpoint devices.

·        Mobile Application Management (MAM) enables enterprises to centrally control and manage the applications that can be installed on devices, and the security of these applications.

·        Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) bundles mobile device management and mobile application management, and then may also offer additional control and management capabilities around mobile content management and mobile email management.

With several mobile-related solution areas to navigate, apparel retailers should consider their current and future enterprise needs, particularly around the need for a consistent user mobile experience across the enterprise, the needs of store management and staff in order to be more productive, the need for mobile security, and IoT strategies.

Robert supports IDC Retail Insights and Manufacturing Insights IT Strategies practices. Robert covers topics such as IT budget and strategy, penetration and use cases for cloud, mobility, big data and analytics and social business, within the industry context.

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