Retail is Changing Fast, Are You?
Digital omnichannel solutions are essential to be competitive. Getting there requires easy-to-use mobile technology that's nimble and adaptable.
Retail is Changing Fast, Are You?
Meeting customer expectations has never been more challenging
Retailers Must Be Mobile-First to
In the highly-competitive retail industry, companies try to leverage just about every advantage and innovation they can think of to get ahead. Those that don't risk shrinking sales and worse. History is littered with the stories of retailers that couldn't adapt to disruption. While the pace of transformation has always been brisk, the pandemic sped it up dramatically as retailers leaned more into digital omnichannel solutions along with the need to offer touchless transactions and curbside service. Customers liked what they saw, and their expectations were permanently changed. Employee attitudes have altered too, and filling positions has never been more challenging.
Speedy evolution is here to stay. Meeting customer and employee expectations requires seamless omnichannel experiences with easy-to-use mobile technology that's nimble and adaptable. As technology develops, it continuously creates new use cases and potential competitive advantages. To stay ahead, retailers must be mobile-first. That's more than adopting mobile solutions piecemeal. Mobile-first is a holistic principle that puts mobility at the heart of strategy, operations, and the user experience. It should be at the forefront of technology roadmaps and investments. Recent Stratix research shows that retailers are not as mobile-first as they think. A lack of centralized decision-making means they're missing opportunities like multi-use devices that lower costs, deliver higher productivity, and create better user experiences.
Great Expectations Challenge Retailers from All Sides
Staying ahead in retail—and potentially becoming the disruptor instead of the disrupted—requires constant attention to what people want. Figuring out how to meet those expectations must be the foundation for strategies. Leaders should decide on the needed end results and then plan how to get there. Technology is often the answer, but be careful. Avoid the temptation to go out and buy a shiny new toy without thinking through if it'll actually deliver the intended ROI.
What Do Customers Want?
Shoppers aren't following the old "rules" of retail anymore. They're not shopping at stores just because they happen to be where certain products are distributed. Customers won't tolerate clunky digital experiences either. Expectations have never been higher. They want seamless experiences between digital and brick and mortar that are easy and fast.
With smartphones, they're used to a large amount of information at their fingertips wherever they are. They like buy-online pickup in-store (BOPIS), but that creates new challenges for retailers when they don't come inside—meaning they're not considering and buying adjacent merchandise.
At the end of the day, most customers want simplicity, value, speed, and helpful service. Things like mobile-friendly, omnichannel, plenty of choices, personalization, and self-serve options can be differentiators that put one company ahead of another.
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What Do Associates Want?
Labor challenges are a major issue in retail. It's one of the industries most affected by the "Great Resignation." When you consider that it takes an average of about 40 days to hire someone and the average cost of recruiting that person runs around $4,000, it's an issue companies can't ignore.
Working in retail has always meant long hours on your feet, random schedules, and lower pay, but many associates now also cite difficult customers and feeling unsafe as reasons for walking away. Today's employees are mostly young and highly digital, and they've no patience for old and cumbersome technology. New tech can't solve all the labor challenges in retail, but giving people easy-to-use devices that allow them to be more productive and helpful makes them more likely to be happier. They deliver better customer experiences, contribute more to profitability, and stay in jobs longer. For large organizations, even hanging on to workers a few months longer—on average—has a significant impact on the bottom line.
What Do Retailers Need?
It's not just customer and employee expectations challenging retailers. Supply chain problems and rising inflation are also top of mind. Companies need to find solutions that:
- Make digital and brick and mortar more seamless
- Create great customer and employee experiences
- Aid distribution—whether BOPIS or last-mile delivery
- Draw customers into brick and mortar
- Drive efficiency
- Solve supply chain challenges
- Boost profitability
A key component of success is also data. You need it to determine where potential solutions will be the most effective and evaluate them after launch. Without data, you can't see trends, track consumer behavior, or find new efficiencies. Many retailers are still using legacy point-of-sale (POS) systems that don't collect much data—and even that is often siloed.
Retailers need technology that does all of the above yet isn't too expensive or difficult to deploy. It has to be easy and scalable. One way to achieve that is using versatile mobile devices like Samsung smartphones, tablets, and wearables that feature Android operating systems, which users are already familiar with.
Managing Labor Shortages and Other Ways Mobile is Transforming Retail
Retailers face challenges at every turn—from the pandemic to supply chain issues and labor shortages. In this episode, Joe Hasenzahl, Senior Manager of Retail Mobility at Samsung, talks about the trends he's seeing and how retailers are using mobile solutions to tackle current challenges and create the experiences customer's demand.
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The Ways Mobile Technology Solves Retail Challenges
1) Productivity, speed, and efficiency
Retail was an early adopter of mobile solutions for workflows like inventory management. Larger stores used walkie-talky radios for associate-to-associate communications. Now, retail technology is following the evolution of consumer devices and consolidating multiple workflows into single devices. In our personal lives, many of us once owned a digital camera, MP3 player, and a cell phone. Now all three are consolidated in modern smartphones. For retail, a smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro or a tablet such as the Galaxy Tab S8 works well for inventory scanning, mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), collaborating with coworkers, helping answer customer questions, and showing them more choices. Not only does it drive down the total cost of ownership because you aren't buying multiple devices, but it removes friction from the associate journey when they're no longer juggling so many. An associate can carry one device for their entire shift and doesn't have to share devices like scanners with others. It's faster and more productive.
2) Flexibility and better customer experiences
Mobile devices free up associates to move wherever they need to be without leaving their tools behind. Creating great customer experiences today means meeting customers where they are. You must be able to serve them at the "point of conversation"—wherever that is. That journey starts with digital, but when they transition to brick and mortar, mobile devices mean you can offer complete service anywhere on the property—in the aisles or curbside.
Checking out with purchases is often the most friction-filled part of the customer experience for both digital and brick and mortar. In stores, shoppers get frustrated when there are lines. That's magnified when the person in front of them is someone who still writes checks or has their credit card declined. An associate with a mobile device can take payment anywhere. Receipts can be sent by email or produced by a mobile printer.
One of the challenges of BOPIS is that customers don't come inside stores, and the opportunity for them to browse and buy adjacent merchandise is lost. With a tablet, associates can show customers suggestions at curbside and potentially upsell them.
Enhanced one-on-one service
An associate with a mobile device is an empowered associate that can deliver super service to customers. There's something social about interacting with a store employee, so if you can make that a good experience, you win and give people a reason to come inside. Customers often use their own mobile devices for research, but the associate may have newer and better information. It makes them knowledgeable and super-helpful when they have fast access to product information the shopper doesn't have. They can transact where that shopper is making that decision and not losing a sale because they couldn't give an answer. Associates have the resources to do their job. They're not frustrated, and you're giving the customer something rewarding for engaging with you.
Taking one-on-one service a step further, if the customer has an online account with the business, an associate with a mobile device can use data around past purchases to offer a premium experience. They can interact more effectively and either pull up suggestions on the device or pair it with large screens and high-quality displays to really take service to the next level. Tablets like Samsung's S8 come with a stylus that the associate can use to sketch ideas or flip through pages of product information.
3) Better data
Mobile devices are powerful data collection devices that help retailers improve workflows, efficiency, and customer experiences. Digital platforms like websites and apps deliver a lot of data on customer behavior and interests, but that can be augmented with data from mobile devices in brick-and-mortar locations. Location information can track the effectiveness of floor plans and displays. Counting the steps associates have to take can lead to placing inventory in ways that boost productivity. Devices can also show hotspots for where point of conversation activity is happening, which can drive decisions about how to arrange product adjacencies and displays, etc.
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Fast data processing also improves the seamlessness of omnichannel experiences—particularly around inventory management. With stores offering curbside pickup or using floorspace as a distribution point for local delivery of online purchases, it's now common to have both a customer and an associate looking for the same item at the same time. When the customer can't find it, they're upset. Stockouts cost retailers 4 percent of sales every year. Associates using mobile devices for stock picking and inventory control paired with technology that quickly updates inventory levels across all platforms helps get on top of the problem and lessen customer frustration.
4) Better employee experiences and shortened training time
Using mobile devices that employees are already familiar with, like smartphones and tablets, means the learning curve isn't as steep when they start. The software they need for their job may be new, but they're already comfortable with the device and operating system. Features like voice commands make devices even more user-friendly. Learning is more intuitive, and they can often troubleshoot and problem-solve for themselves without assistance. It's a better experience that not only attracts and retains but means they get up to speed faster.
5) Lower costs
While retailers have long wish lists when it comes to technology, IT budgets aren't necessarily getting any bigger. Mobile devices can help with that. Not only does consolidating workflows into multi-use devices cut down on the need to spend on individual solutions, but ruggedized consumer devices like smartphones and tablets are often cheaper. Instead of buying expensive equipment that must be shared, companies can more easily afford to put a device in the hands of every associate, which increases their productivity and customer-service power.
6) Ability to leverage 5G and futureproof
We've been talking about the potential of 5G—the latest generation of wireless—for years, but the networks are now widely available, and Samsung devices for sale today have it—or will soon. It means new advantages for retailers. In BOPIS—for example—a store's Wi-Fi network might not be reliable in the parking lot. 5G can make ultra-high-speed connectivity seamless.
Where 5G has a huge impact is in data. It's not only faster but brings lower latency—the time it takes a packet of information to make the round trip between two points. That's important if you want to leverage high-speed inventory tracking or technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). AI can create better customer experiences by offering more refined purchase suggestions that an associate can pass along to the customer. Say a product is missing a price tag or a bar code, AI can identify the product using the camera in a device. In a clienteling context, AR can show customers more product information, what they'd look like wearing clothes or accessories, or simply show them exactly where to find something in a store in real-time.
How Retailers Can Get to Where They Need to Go
All the challenges facing retailers combined with the proliferation and potential complexity of new technology can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Plan for more disruption. We may not suffer another pandemic anytime soon, but disruption in retail on smaller scales is nothing new. Because mobile is more agile and adaptable, it can help you adjust to change faster.
When drawing out your mobility roadmap, always consider user experiences and design your solutions by starting with the desired outcomes. If you begin with the result you want and figure out how to get there step-by-step, you're much more likely to have something that is successful and user-friendly.
Centralized decision-making within the organization helps drive holistic mobile-first strategies. Stratix's 2022 Enterprise Mobility Outlook shows that retailers have work to do there. Only 36 percent do it. Thinking big picture helps you spot opportunities to use the same devices across multiple workflows or departments. That creates efficiency and cost savings. The same research shows just 52 percent of retailers have more than half of their employees using mobile devices to do their jobs, so there's a significant opportunity to leverage more benefits from mobile solutions.
Remember you don't have to go it alone. Few retailers have the expertise and resources to design, deploy, and support mobile solutions effectively. Managed Mobile Service Providers like Stratix partner with leading technology providers like Samsung to deliver end-to-end mobile solutions. Stratix has proven expert solution architects who live and breathe enterprise mobility. We can study your environment, understand your goals, then design, deploy, and support solutions with excellent user experiences that get you where you want to go. Retail is evolving fast, but mobile technology backed with the right knowledge and support will help you stay competitive and successful.
High Touch in a No Touch World
The brick-and-mortar retail experience was due for a paradigm shift, but no one could envision how quickly and suddenly the COVID-19 pandemic would bring it on. Now, social distancing and contactless transactions are just some of the keys to re-establishing customer confidence. In this episode, we drill down into the "new normal" of the post-COVID retail landscape - with Joe Hasenzahl, National Director of Sales, B2B Mobility for Retail at Samsung.
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