According to a recent RSR Research report, customers believe that an uninformed employee is actually worse than no employee at all. As a result, shoppers believe the online channel holds a greater wealth of information, leaving the in-store experience suffering by comparison. Brick-and-mortar retailers must do better and take advantage of the opportunities the in-store experience and new technologies – such as tablets - can provide to instill greater customer loyalty.
Retailers, particularly apparel retailers, are recognizing the need to consolidate the customer experience across channels, while improving the in-store experience with better informed sales personnel who can provide relevant, timely and in-depth guidance when assisting a customer. In response to these needs, retailers are seeing a lot of promise with tablet deployments and perceive their use as an opportunity to raise their game, engage with customers and match or exceed the experience they have become accustomed to online while shopping in the store.
So what is the right tablet, and as a retailer, how do you choose the right solution for your business?
Tablet computers occupy a new space in the technology landscape and give retailers more flexibility than ever before. Tablets can provide the same mobility as phones and other handheld devices, while offering the larger display of stationary computers. Employees have more options with tablets including the opportunity to share video, check inventory and deliver information to customers without ever leaving them. It all comes down to customer interaction and the customer experience, and tablets give employees the best of mobility with instant access to store and product data that can make them more valuable to customers.
Imagine this scenario. A customer walks into the store searching for a new pair of jeans – this shopper already has a specific item in mind and knows how much she wants to spend. A store associate first checks the display in search of the item, leaves the customer to check the backroom and after unsuccessfully locating the jeans, the customer leaves the store frustrated without making a single purchase. This scenario is all too familiar according to Motorola Solutions' annual holiday shopper survey, which found that one-third of store visits ended with an average of $125 unspent. These sales went unspent due to missed opportunities to purchase items driven by inefficient payment approaches, deal-habituated behavior, out-of-stocks (OOS) and limited store associate assistance.
Had the store associate been equipped with a tablet, she could have had access to detailed information about the shopper, including her size, preferences and purchasing behavior. Without leaving the customer's side, the associate could have used a tablet to check inventory and find the jeans, shown the customer suggested available blouses and accessories for the desired jeans and completed the transaction. In this scenario, the customer is satisfied and feels engaged and the associate has increased the total sale for the customer with an up-sell from what she had intended to purchase. With tablets, associates have an “endless aisle” at their fingertips, providing merchandise options that are not limited to the physical space in the store. Associates can quickly check stock and, if necessary, locate items at another store location or warehouse, therefore bringing the online experience into the store.
In addition to improving the customer experience, tablets can help make store operations more efficient. Store managers have access to information in real-time and visibility into inventory on tablets while in their office or on the sales floor. By knowing what's in stock, they can control orders and communicate effectively to the manufacturer regarding future shipments. This not only ensures that the right merchandise is in stock for customers, but also improves the bottom line by avoiding overstock or shortage of a specific product.
Steps to select the right tablet solution
When considering a tablet deployment, there are a few key factors that retailers should consider to ensure they are selecting the right solution to fit their business needs.
First, it's important to take a step back, analyze the requirements and define your goals. Begin by considering the types of solutions that you are trying to provide with a tablet and the environmental challenges that could arise. Consider the durability and expected usage period required for your business – most tablets need to be able to withstand regular bumps and drops. It's important to remember that no consumer device is built for the wear and tear of the retail industry, and a more durable solution might be the right fit.
Retailers should define how long each day they plan to use the tablet, who will be handling it on a day-to-day basis and if it will be used for multiple shifts, in which case you'll need hot-swappable replacement batteries to ensure a sale doesn't get lost. A tablet that can easily and accurately scan bar codes and securely accept credit card payments during peak sales periods are two features that are often desired but also rarely supplied by consumer-focused devices.
Lastly, it's important to gauge the device management and security features as well as the expandability of a tablet solution, as increased storage and additional applications may be necessary down the road. In the event that a tablet is lost or stolen, it's vital to have the ability to wipe the device clean of critical data. If you don't think ahead, you'll quickly fall behind and incur unforeseen costs in the race to improve customer engagement.
Retail in the 21st century is all about anticipating what your shoppers want and engaging with them to deliver the expectations they desire. The retailer that understands this premise and is social, mobile and connected will build shopper loyalty and come out on top. Through the use of tablet solutions, retailers will be one step closer to achieving this goal, while improving operations and the bottom line.
Frank Riso is senior director of Retail at Motorola Solutions and an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. For more information, please visit www.motorolasolutions.com/retail.