This is part 2 of a 2 part series. We’re looking at how the use of ruggedized devices and mobile technology in retail can increase sales and optimize business processes such as inventory and logistics while decreasing labor costs. In Part 1 of this series we explored how the use of mobile devices in a retail environment increases sales, improves customer service and optimizes customer relationship management (CRM).
It is widely accepted that acquiring a new customer is two to five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Delivering a superior customer experience is the key to attracting and retaining customer spending and growing revenue. When customers are serviced swiftly and in a friendly manner, they are more likely to return, thus increasing profits.
mPOS and payment via mobile phones delivers faster service, reducing the amount of time customers spend in checkout lines, resulting in many more happy customers. Associates with mobile devices not only help customers find what they are looking for, but can also provide product and pricing information, encourage add-on sales and manage loyalty programs.
But increased sales and happier customers are only part of what mobile technology can do for retailers. Mobile devices also help execute basic industry functions such as inventory control, accurate buying, pick up and delivery options and employee management. Retailers must look for a mPOS and retail software solution with apps that integrates with payments, connects in-store and online inventory and provides the ability to manage staff.
A Harvard Business School study showed that, on average, companies lose 10% of their profits on inaccurate inventory records each year. Real time inventory visibility and multi-channel fulfillment top the list of important supply chain functions. Effective mPOS systems, when tied in with inventory, provide more functionality than just customer checkout. They support merchandise planning, ordering, and analysis.
Knowing how much of a product to order at any given moment is a challenge for retailers. Buying too much results in recycling products year after year, tying up valuable capital and using up extra storage space. When a sales associate with a mobile device can update sales in real time, it positively affects accurate buying practices. Intra-channel and cross-channel visibility of stock is now a basic requirement, one that is easily facilitated with retail apps on a sales associate’s mobile device.
Mobile solutions for warehouse inventory management will also cut costs by automating workflows and improving workforce efficiency and data capture accuracy, thereby reducing overstock and markdowns. Using mobile technology to manage inventory puts all your inventory data in easy reach.
How the use of mobile devices affect inventory management:
- Ruggedized devices are equipped with built in scanners. Faster barcode scanning increases sales and warehouse associates’ productivity. When combined with an inventory app your device doesn’t need any extra hardware.
- Inventory updated on the spot gives sales associates accurate knowledge of merchandise levels and location.
- A mobile device can connect in-store and online inventory.
- Stock optimization involves more than keeping products on the shelf. Up-to-date inventory and sales figures affect accurate buying.
Logistics and supply chain executives are seeing real-time visibility made possible by wireless technology. While we’ve detailed why mobile applications and devices are important on the sales floor, those mobile devices are also useful in the warehouse, where more shippers are gravitating toward wireless environments. In those logistics environments, the ability to withstand multiple, 6-foot drops to a concrete floor make durable devices the way to go.
Advancements in RFID capabilities have made the wireless world more inviting for retailers as well. Use of RFID impacts inventory visibility and gives retailers the ability to clearly communicate item location and delivery information to customers. It is important for retailers to improve logistics in line with customer expectations.
Convenience and ease top consumers’ wish lists. Store pickup and the ability to return online purchases to the closest retail store is now expected. Sales associates with a mobile device can facilitate the sale of a special order or out-of-stock item and have that item shipped to a customer’s home. Using mobile devices makes it easier to shift staff to where they’re needed most. For instance, they can be used to facilitate returns after the holidays, thus eliminating long lines and encouraging exchanges rather than returns while giving the customer a positive in-store experience.
How the use of mobile devices affect logistics:
- The ability to buy in any channel and return in any channel gets high consumer marks.
- In-store returns are more easily converted to exchanges.
- RFID tags allow customers to follow order history and track shipments.
Staff Optimization and Management
Staff optimization involves training and deploying staff in a way that supports customer expectations. In 2014, 1.75 billion people worldwide used smart phones. Its safe to say, then, that employees are familiar with the intuitive nature of the user interface. Using mobile devices with familiar touch screens can greatly reduce training time and, thereby, reduce costs. At the same time, better product information at the point of sale can help staff turn an inquiry into a sale. Links into labor management systems, including task management systems, can help put the right staff member with the right skills in the right place at the right time, increasing the chances of a favorable customer experience being converted into an actual sale.
Given the use of ruggedized devices on the sales floor, simple messages such as “assist the customer in the cheese department” or “pull a size 8 off of the rack and place on hold for customer pick up” could be directed to the associates through their personal devices. Addressing the need to use labor resources more efficiently would result in improved store productivity. A mobile device application provides immediate feedback and could be used to remind employees of time- sensitive task sequence.
How the use of mobile devices affect staff management:
- Intuitive mobile device touch pads decrease training time for new employees
- A mobile device can track hours. Manages employees utilizing a check-in/out feature that keeps track of employee hours worked, facilitating payroll processing.
- Mobile apps are tools to track employee performance – for example, mobile apps can send exception alerts to headquarters that critical tasks have not been completed
Will mobile devices replace fixed POS in the retail store of the future? Probably not. There are still some remaining challenges to the mPOS model. Fixed POS stations really come in handy in certain situations—imagine checking out large quantities of items, such as groceries, without them. Merchandise that needs to be neatly folded and bagged after security tag removal is more easily managed with a fixed sales counter.
Although some retailers say they will decrease the number of fixed POS units in stores as a result of their mobile POS investments, its more likely that mobile POS will be an addition to, rather than a replacement for, traditional POS. It’s clear that the use of a mobile devices in retail increases efficiency, improves inventory control, provides fast and accurate data gathering, analysis, and reporting, reduces over or under buying, facilitates optimal efficiency and economy in shipping and receiving, insures accurate accounting, and serves a host of other capabilities.