Mobility in retail – delivering empowerment to customers and staff

Robin Coles, Product and Technology Lead at HSO, blogs about the need for retailers to embrace mobility to continue what was once a given in retailing – high quality customer service. However, to deliver maximum in-store service, retailers must not forget the needs of sales assistants or service staff when formulating the most appropriate mobile strategy for their business.

We are told that Mobility is now all pervasive in Retailing, that in the time pressured 21st century world, where consumers are always on the move and need everything at once, that this is a key driver in the effort to remain competitive.

However, if we investigate what Mobility actually means, it is surely about continuing to provide what was once a given in Retailing, namely high quality Customer Service, anytime, anywhere, yet at a faster pace, with a mountain of data available.

Retailing has of course always been about detail, understanding the customer, knowing what stock is available, making promises that could be kept, with efficient service at the core. Yet, in today’s retailing, with less time, with disruptive competitors and with product and price information available at the touch of a button, the power in the relationship is now in the consumer’s hands.

It is clear that the internet has driven this change, and to provide the service that the customer requires, each retailer must embrace mobility, formulating the most appropriate mobile strategy for their business. Crucially, this must consider what mobility means for the customer, as part of their purchase journey, yet align that with the requirements of in-store service staff, a group that has seen this initiative largely pass them by.

A well thought out mobile strategy should be focused on ‘seizing the moment’, by providing the service that the customer wants to see at the point they want to see it, whilst enabling in-store staff to react quickly to ever changing customer demands.

For consumers, this will be focussed on making the buying process as seamless as possible, providing high availability and integrating all back end channel processes, to deliver a pleasing experience.

On the web this should include the traditional ordering cycle to be supported, but also for visibility of stock across the estate, for example, what size 8 dresses are in-stock in the local store. In the store environment, consideration should be given for the ability for shoppers to be served in front of the goods on the shop floor, thereby skipping checkout lines, whilst in the fitting room, where assistance is required, the customer can request new colours/sizes, or additional products, at the touch of a button.

However, to deliver maximum in-store service, what must not be forgotten are the needs of the sales assistant or service staff, which after all form a substantial part of a retailers store investment. Providing such staff with mobility solutions, whether smartphone, tablet or wearable devices, makes them a part of the customer’s journey, responsive to their needs, empowered to make decisions and a key part of a retailer’s brand image.

A modern store environment should provide Mobility solutions in the hands of store staff, including the following:

  • Visibility of orders that require action, for example, those that require shipping, recognising the service level that the customer has paid for, or those that are now ready for collection and require processing.
  • Efficient and speedy processing for customer order collections, for the time pressured customer, recognising the additional up-sell opportunities this provides.
  • Access to information allowing speedy responses to requests for detailed product information and/or stock availability across the retail estate.
  • Tools that, in the right environment, support a clienteling led approach, whereby an assistant can view customer likes, dislikes and transaction history, as part of a sales based dialogue.
  • Support for technology in the fitting room, enabling tracking of what goods are taken there, additional product recommendations, and requests for assistance to be processed, whether product or service based,
  • Ability to quickly and efficiently perform in-store stock movements, including goods receipt, transfers in and out, stock adjustments, and stock reservations, with the actions recorded in real time to the corporate systems. This activity drives stock accuracy and availability, a key requirement of Mobility.

To summarise, Mobility is an area that delivers empowerment, to the consumer in their lifestyle choices, how they shop and where they choose to spend their time, and to the retailer’s staff in how well they can manage their environment and respond to customer demands.

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