Retail 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook report found that retailers could achieve more with mobile-first strategies.
Some of the earliest and most visible pandemic-related disruptions around the globe came in retail. Shelves of toilet paper and other products disappeared overnight, customers donned masks, shields went up in front of cash registers, and disinfecting everything was the order of the day. Mobile devices are what kept many businesses open because they enabled curbside service and other contactless transactions.
But COVID isn't what first triggered mobile-driven digital transformation in grocery, hospitality, restaurant, and other retail organizations. For some time, companies have steadily adopted solutions for inventory control, streamlining operations, and—above all—creating better customer experiences. The pandemic has accelerated the trend as customer expectations for omnichannel experiences increase and organizations see the many benefits of mobile in all facets of operations.
As a leader in enterprise mobility that partners with some of the top retailers in the country, Stratix does research every year to learn what's working and what isn't for organizations. In the 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook, we studied retail as one of four key industry verticals, along with manufacturing, field services, and transportation. The data shows that while retailers have made progress, they're missing out because their strategies often aren't holistic enough.
Because retail has rolled out mobile solutions for inventory control, buy-online pickup-in-store, and some point of sale, it'd be easy to think of the industry as making good progress. In fact, retail organizations still rely on many legacy applications. They're adopting mobile solutions piecemeal instead of thinking at a broader strategic level. That means they're not getting all the efficiencies, cost savings, and competitive advantages they could.
Putting mobile at the heart of strategy, operations, and the user experience is being "mobile-first." When you're mobile-first, you improve communications, enable anywhere operations, increase automation, and streamline processes. One of the 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook report highlights is our new Mobile-First Score, which reveals how organizations see themselves vs. reality. We found that retail organizations are the most self-aware of all our industry segments, but they've got work to do.
First, we asked respondents to rate their own organizations. Thirty-seven percent of retailers see themselves as mobile-first, with an additional 57 percent believing they're "somewhat" mobile-first (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Retail Self-Assessment
Next, we put survey respondents through a battery of questions designed to reveal their organizations' true nature. We looked at indicators like how central mobile is to decision-making, if they have a comprehensive understanding of their mobile environment, and if they're engaged in proactive digital transformation. Unlike other industries, there's less of a gap between organizations that see themselves as mobile-first or somewhat mobile-first and those with high and medium scores (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Retail Mobile-First Scores
In the next two graphs, you can see how retail stacks up against other industries. It has a better grasp of where it really is compared with verticals like field services and transportation. For them, self-perception is practically the inverse of reality (see Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 3: Self-perception by Industry
Figure 4: Mobile-First Score by Industry
However, retail's self-awareness is not accurate at the bottom of the scale. Only six percent see themselves as not mobile-first when nearly thirty percent got a low score. Organizations with low scores typically don't understand what it means to be mobile-first and think they are because they use mobile devices in some workflows.
So why does retail overall still have work to do? The data shows where they are lagging.
However, there are some areas where retailers do better:
Beyond progress on mobile-first principles, the 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook also looks at what's working and what isn't for retailers. We examined policies and how devices are used and supported. We found some pain points.
Of all our industry groups, retailers are the most likely to rely on shared mobile devices. When we asked about the ways they're shared, 97 percent have the option of assigning a device to one employee for the duration of their shift. Forty percent have situations where one device is shared among many, and 69 percent keep devices in one location for multiple employees to use.
When we looked into the challenges with shared devices, we found a fairly even distribution of complaints like long wait times, check-in and check-out problems, charging issues, and lost devices (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Shared Device Challenges in Retail
Fifty-one percent of retailers are looking to change their shared device strategies, with most saying they plan to move to personally assigned devices, upgrade technology, and change their procedures (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Ways Retailers Plan to Change Shared Device Strategies
Why Off-the-Shelf Doesn’t Work for Enterprise Mobility
In this episode, Dipesh Hinduja, Stratix Mobile Solution Architect Director, delves into the use cases driving mobile technology trends in retail and provides tips on setting up a comprehensive mobile blueprint and the risks that come with not setting one up.
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Figure 4: Time spent managing mobile technology
Retailers rarely allow employees to use their own devices for work. Only 6 percent said they have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. That makes sense when you consider the potential security challenges. Still, we found just 14 percent of organizations across all verticals allow BYOD. It appears enthusiasm for the idea is losing steam despite the buzz around it in recent years.
Retailers are highly likely to rely on Managed Mobile Services Providers (MMSPs) to support their mobile technology. Forty-two percent outsource completely, and another 44 percent use MMSPs for deployments or telecom expense management. Only 10 percent of retailers have the resources to manage their mobile technology completely in-house.
When it comes to picking an MMSP, retailers prefer the simplicity of one hand to shake over a constellation of partners. Eighty-two percent say they find providers with "complete" solutions either "very" valuable or "extremely" valuable. Despite that preference, many companies have multiple MMSP and OEM partners, so there are opportunities for improvement.
Like all the other industries in our survey, retailers are finding it hard to hire qualified staff to manage mobile solutions. Eight four percent report at least some level of difficulty. The research also shows that internal IT teams spend a lot of time managing mobile (see Figure 7).
Figure 7: Time Spent Managing Mobile Technology in Retail
Sixty-eight percent spend more than a quarter of their day on mobile and 24 percent more than half. When you consider that slightly more than half of all retail employees are currently using mobile devices to do their jobs, that's a disproportionate amount of IT time spent managing mobile. It's also time that internal resources are not spending on more strategic initiatives.
Compared with other verticals, retailers are less likely to require "very" or "extremely" customized devices. Forty-four percent say they do compared with manufacturing, where that number goes up to 62 percent. Still, all retailers need at least some level of customization, so off-the-shelf solutions aren't an option.
Retailers are more likely to pick iOS devices over Android or Windows IoT (formerly Windows Embedded). It's easy to see why. Apple has invested heavily in mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions, and employees are already familiar with iPhones and iPads—meaning less training time and better user experiences.
While many retailers use mobile solutions for inventory control, buy-online pickup-in-store, and some point of sale, few are truly mobile-first. That means they're missing benefits like scale and opportunities to use the same technology across multiple workflows. For example, omni-use devices can do point-of-sale, BOPIS, inventory control, and function as mobile platforms for managers to work anywhere. Consolidating mobile solutions lowers costs—for both procurement and ongoing support.
Holistic strategies also give you better data. You can track how associates move around buildings or work with customers. That leads to strategic improvements to floorplans or changes in staffing levels. Communications improve when more workers carry mobile devices.
Above all, mobile solutions improve customer experiences. When an associate can engage with a customer anywhere with a powerful device, it's easy to create the seamless experiences shoppers expect. Associates can quickly pull up the information a customer may have seen on a website, check inventory levels, and offer ship-to-home if something isn't on the premises. In restaurants, employees can meet customers in drive-thru lines for one-on-one service or offer tableside ordering. It streamlines operations, reduces the number of staff needed, and makes customers happier.
Despite a higher level of self-awareness, retailers may not have the expertise or resources to implement mobile-first strategies. Help is available. Partnering with an MMSP gives you access to experts who can study your organization and its needs to craft holistic strategies that'll bring you the benefits to improve your bottom line and user experiences.
Wherever your organization is in its mobile-first journey, you don't have to go it alone. Stratix has led from the front on mobility for nearly four decades. We can help you design and deliver end-to-end mobile technology solutions that make your organization's mobility convenient, easy, and cost-effective. We execute deployments at scale and with precision, so they work in the hands of your end users out-of-the-box. Once devices are in service, we provide ongoing world-class managed services and visibility tools that ensure nonstop mobility throughout their lifecycle. For additional information, visit www.stratixcorp.com
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Want to see more of our research? Read the full 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook.