Today’s better connected workforces have added mobile devices to their tool kits. Deploying mobile devices within organizations allows for faster communication across the organization, improves the customer experience, and creates efficiencies and cost savings.
Here are five reasons why retailers should equip their in-store employees with mobile devices:
1. Extend the point-of-sale (POS) and provide a better customer experience
As retail operations evolve, the future of POS will most certainly change. Mobile POS will grow to complement traditional POS terminals in the segments where appropriate, addressing specific needs that improve the customer experience and create value for retailers, leading to a more integrated and converged store solution.
Retailers such as Modell’s, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, and REI have all deployed the Apple method of in-store service and checkout by using mobile POS (mPOS) as an extension of their POS systems, decreasing customer lines at cash registers and providing added convenience for customers to check out anywhere in the stores.
Last year, Urban Outfitters CIO Calvin Hollinger told analysts that the clothing chain will replace its fixed POS terminals with iPod touch devices and iPads. And, the outdoor goods retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering announced in March 2012 that the company conducts 70 percent of its transactions via mPOS.
2. Create an omnichannel approach
In 2014, marketers throughout the retail space will move from a multichannel strategy to an omnichannel approach, blending existing channels into one seamless experience. When equipped with mobile, employees could more easily assist customers and even collaborate with other employees for further assistance directly from integrated apps on their devices.
By incorporating mobile service and POS inside bricks and mortars, companies will successfully serve their customers’ needs at their customer’s convenience—at the time and place and in the channel their customers prefer.
3. Reduce Showrooming
As shopping becomes better optimized on mobile devices, showrooming will continue to emerge as a bigger problem for brick-and-mortar retailers as they work to ensure that customers are not just researching items and pricing information, but also following through on their desire to purchase. According to IDC, 7 to 13 percent of shoppers use smartphones "at least once" in stores, with showrooming touching 1.4 percent of sales.
But, what can retailers do to combat the showrooming trend? Equipping in-store employees with mobile devices to provide conveniences to customers by helping them complete their shopping, providing fast service, finding an appropriate resource at another store, printing tailored offers, and conducting price comparisons will go a long way in combating the showrooming phenomenon.
4. Improve mobile workforce utilization
If organizations can put customers in contact with people in retail locations, they can really utilize their mobile workforce for improved experiences, efficiency and cost savings. In-store experts and their corresponding downtime during non-peak hours, represent one of the most underutilized assets for retailers.
In-store employees can be more beneficial to consumers than contact center reps in certain scenarios, as they have a local advantage and in-store expertise, and can pull inventory directly from the shelf.
Mobile employees can also handle contact center overflow. It's bad for business when you make your customers hold, leave a voicemail, or call back at a later time. In preventing long hold times, high-volume contact centers sometimes hire call overflow services to pick up the excess by routing inbound calls to live reps.
But, what if retailers utilized their in-store employees during periods when their contact centers receive high volumes? Retailers can train employees on the floor to answer basic questions about store directions, return information, or provide information about sales. This, in turn, saves money and creates more knowledgeable in-store employees leaving no down time in either the contact centers or in the stores.
5. Create cost savings and efficiencies
According to the Yankee Group, retailers that have mobilized some or all of their checkouts are achieving significant cost savings. A Yankee Group report estimates that large retailers will spend $20,000 and need about 75 square feet of floor space to install five fixed checkouts. But, providing five fully-loaded iPod touch devices to staff will cost just $2,500, with no loss of floor space. And, having mPOS devices allows retailers to free up floor space to display product lines.
Yankee Group estimated that a high-end retailer with 50 stores, producing $525 in sales per square foot, could generate $1.2 million in additional annual sales by replacing three cash wraps with mPOS.
Just as automated machines have augmented banking, mobile will more readily appear in the hands of employees to transform the way organizations conduct business, providing more tailored customer experiences, added conveniences, and creating tighter relationships between employees and customers.