Helping Retailers Innovate With Mobile
Mobility is a disruptive technology for all businesses in all industries, which is transforming how businesses operate. For retailers in particular and in combination with other technologies such as Cloud software deployment it allows to react faster and be more flexible to succeed in today’s mega-empowered consumer age. This is the reason why Mobility, along with Cloud and Cross-Channel, is among the top IT investment priorities for retailers as a recent study released by Openbravo about investment priorities for the coming years in retail IT systems has confirmed,. According to the same study the adoption of mobile point of sale solutions has tripled in leading retail markets.
Benefits for retailers
The way mobility impacts the organization is transformational. Mobility allows retailers to execute more responsive and efficient operations from anywhere and at anytime. Quick access to relevant business information helps to respond quickly in front of business events such as customer enquiries or requests. As a result staff productivity and engagement are highly improved.
Mobile applications for retail are wide and varied but as a common denominator retailers invest in mobility mainly to enhance the customer experience and to improve business efficiency. And business area of retailers that benefit most from mobility is the store operation where mobility is penetrating deeply into the critical realms of the shopper experience and customer satisfaction.
Store operations are optimized in various ways thanks to mobility. Customer service and engagement are highly improved by enabling a much improved assisted and interactive sale everywhere in the store which we can see is considered very important and differentiating for specialty retailers like in fashion or electronics. Line busting during peak periods is another important way for retailers to improve their service very often resulting in a saved sale.
The use of mobile devices in the stores is considered today as a way to progress in cross-channel, which is a key priority for retailers worldwide. The ability to check available stock in other store locations directly in the terminal is one of the features that helps retailers to deliver superb customer service.
Back-office store operations can also benefit greatly from the adoption of mobility, especially in the area of inventory management. Inventory counts or stock movements such as goods receipts or goods shipments, when directly executed and monitored from mobile devices provide higher accuracy and saves precious time of staff. Combined with mobile alerts for different events such as replenishment needs or manager approvals for urgent actions, retailers gain significantly in agility and efficiency for their operations. Same capabilities can also be used in central warehouses out of the physical stores therefore globally improving end-to-end supply chain management performance.
A mobile point of sale solution also provides higher business agility and helps to reduce total IT costs. Terminals can be easily added or removed, adapted to changing demand, which is critical in front of common stationary situations. Same flexibility allows the opening of stores to be much faster since it simplifies a lot the required IT infrastructure. Higher flexibility is still provided when combining mobile and web technologies since only a browser is required on each mobile terminal, which dramatically simplifies the way it is deployed and maintained. And by using consumer devices like tablets or smartphones it helps to reduce drastically total hardware cost in comparison to traditional POS stations.
Despite of these benefits, many companies using mobile business applications have discovered that along with the benefits come unique challenges.
Security is probably one of the most important challenges especially now with the growing adoption of consumer-owned devices within the enterprise. Retailers need a security policy that addresses mobility practices such as appropriate device usage or data handling on the device as well as the tools to provide controls for managing device level functions such as allowed terminals and users.
Infrastructure aspects must also be considered. One of the most important is the need of a proper Wi-Fi network especially depending on the retailer strategy in the stores, for example if they want to provide free Wi-Fi access, which is one of the tactics often followed to embrace extensive client showrooming. However this can be an expensive decision and some big retailers have already decided to eliminate it due to its high cost after having offered it previously.
Another decision retailers must take when providing devices to staff is the use either of consumer-grade or retail hardened devices. ROI and appearance arguments can be considered depending on the use these devices will have. Preferences on the vendor (Apple, Android or Windows) will also influence the final choice.
In order to obtain maximum benefits and to overcome some of the existing challenges retailers need to adopt new mobile ready commerce platforms that allow to easily deploy new mobile solutions, are strongly scalable to adapt to different business scenarios and growth stages and that can integrate seamlessly with other retail technologies and channels. A mobility infrastructure that simplifies application development, deployment, and on-going support across an environment where there are a number of different mobile device types and operating systems.
And here we are convinced about the value the Openbravo Commerce Platform provides to agile retailers today. Its state-of-the-art mobile and web point of sale allied with strong merchandise management, supply chain management, enterprise management and multichannel capabilities allow retailers to succeed in today’s new consumer age and embrace mobility seamlessly.
In the future we expect of course a higher adoption of mobile technologies by retailers, which are not always limited to the use of mobile terminals. Mobile technologies such as location based marketing or customer recognition will gain ground in the future and will change more and more the way shoppers currently buy. Within the enterprise more mobilized processes and especially mobile business intelligence for a better, instantaneous decision making will certainly enable retailers to develop more effective operations.
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