SMB Retailers- Embrace Mobility to Attract More Customers, Streamline Operations

retail HiRes

By Roula Vrsic, Vice President, Global Marketing, SOTI  

Mobility is changing the retail landscape and retailers who don’t embrace it may be left behind.

Today, mobile technologies influence every step of the shopping experience and touch every part of the value chain, from buying products and managing inventory to operating stores and marketing and promotion. And customers love it.

A survey released by SOTI earlier this year showed that 66 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at retailers offering an in-store mobile technology shopping experience.

For small to medium-sized (SMB) retailers, adopting a mobile strategy is crucial for keeping pace with customers’ changing demands. This article will show how mobility solutions can improve a retail operation and examines ways in which retailers have managed them successfully.

Improving the Consumer Experience

Mobility solutions enable retailers to interact with customers in more places and more often as part of an “omni-channel strategy,” providing consumers with a unified shopping experience that encompasses online, telephone, or shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store. Savvy shoppers frequently use their smartphones to compare in-store prices with Internet prices as they shop.

Tablets are flexible enough so that retailers can use them as kiosks, for smart displays, and at the point-of-sale (POS) throughout the store. Self-serve kiosks provide immediate stock and product information to consumers without them ever having to ask a sales associate for help.

Those retailers who expand the use of mobile devices across their operations to include more purpose-built and consumer-grade mobile devices are finding that consumers actually prefer using them rather than speaking with a store employee or sales associate. When shoppers do speak to a sales associate, they say those equipped with special-purpose mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are better informed and helpful.

Retailers know that long lines are detrimental to consumers’ retail experience, and can impact brand loyalty. They also know consumers prefer mobile POS instead of traditional cashier checkout to speed their transactions. Once the shopper is ready to checkout, mobile sales staff with POS-enabled devices can scan their purchase, swipe their credit cards and print their receipts. This alone can improve the customer sales experience and increase revenue per customer.

Product Promotion

Beyond improving in-store experiences for shoppers, retailers also can use mobility to capitalize on big data captured from consumers’ mobile devices. Armed with this type of data, retailers can build targeted marketing campaigns and promotions. Using analytics, retailers can deliver targeted daily or weekly e-flyers to users’ smartphones before they even enter the store.

Location-aware beacon technology can also enable retailers to deliver these customized promotions and location-based coupons to consumers. When shoppers are walking around the mall, the beacons can advertise “walk-in” specials based on their purchase history captured on prior visits and entice them into the store.

Digitally-enabled signage can direct shoppers to the products they are most likely to purchase and beacons can trigger promotions based on the shopper’s proximity to the product. In the aisles, single-purpose devices in kiosk mode can enable retailers to check inventory and even order stock before supplies run out.

Managing Mobile Devices throughout the Value Chain

soti ecommerceFrom the retailer’s perspective, linking together devices and connected peripherals for digital signage, mobile POS, in-store kiosks, interactive displays, tablets, scanners and wireless printers can be daunting.  New devices need to get into the hands of employees quickly and cost effectively, and once these devices are in the stores, they need to be updated on a regular basis. Shoppers want convenience, but they also expect that convenience to come with security.  In the SOTI survey, in fact, many said they would cease shopping at a retailer that suffered a security breach of their payment or personal customer information.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions can help retailers manage their various mobile devices as well as applications and content across the retail value chain. It can also help configure mobile devices for rapid staging and provisioning and provide OS updates and remote troubleshooting management over the air. And as many retail organizations have far-flung empires regionally, nationally or even internationally, a unified EMM solution can manage mobile devices no matter where their workers and network “endpoints” are located.

Effective EMM solutions ensure security of mobile devices by enforcing user authentication, by relying on data encryption, and even by offering geo-fencing features that restrict or lock down devices that leave the premises.

Mobile devices used for POS or that capture consumer information must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), which protects branded credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, as well as the personally identifiable information (PII) standard, which protects customer data. A secure EMM solution will help retailers meet these requirements, which are mandated by the PCI Mobile Payment Acceptance Security Guidelines for POS devices.

The Reject Shop Improves Customer Experiences, Saves Costs

Australia’s The Reject Shop provides a compelling example of how retailers can leverage mobility to improve the customer experience, ensure security and save money. The chain of more than 330 discount variety stores has three major distribution hubs and 5,000 employees and offers a wide range of consumer goods to savvy shoppers looking for a bargain.

To improve the customer experience, The Reject Shop wanted to extend inventory control into the store aisles. To do so, it introduced handheld personal computers optimized for retail − Zebra MC40 devices − into its stores. The Android-based device offers all of the features of a smartphone, but also provides the retailer’s employees with barcode scanning, POS support, and Push-To-Talk (PTT) features for in-store inventory control.

The Reject Shop’s IT department wanted to ensure backward compatibility for these devices with the Windows CE based barcode scanners it was already using. They required management of the new Android devices through a single management interface and they wanted to manage device content, protect device hardware, software and data, and facilitate over-the-air updates and remote support. It was also important for The Reject Shop to manage their devices centrally using an EMM solution, particularly since the devices are used in a wide geography.

The Reject Shop chose SOTI MobiControl, which they were already using to manage their Windows CE devices, for the new Android devices. The EMM solution enabled the retailer to roll out the new Android devices in just two weeks and offered them the security they were looking for.

The Reject Shop estimates that central management of the OS upgrade to all of its devices across its 330+ stores saved the company in travel and manpower costs.

And by keeping a good handle on inventory within-store mobile solutions, The Reject Shop can continue to offer its customers the best deals in Australia.

While coordinating all this technology may be challenging for the small to medium sized business, a planned, coordinated, gradual rollout will keep the business competitive while keeping customers satisfied.

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PointOfSale.com is a leading industry news site for the point of sale and payments industry.We are also the go-to resource for small business owners that want expert tips and inspiration on how to run a successful business. Collectively, our team of experts has decades of POS, payments, and small business experience.