5 ways mobile devices are changing retail forever

 In Mobility, Solutions

Use a mobile POS device and you’ll delight a shopper for a day. Use a mobile-driven omnichannel strategy, and you can create a loyal shopper for life.

A few years ago, mobile devices were only a “line-busting” technology, equipped with a card swipe and barcode reader that allowed sales associates to check out customers from any spot in the store. But in 2015, the role of mobile devices in retail has matured – they’ve become an extension of the brand and a major component of a retailer’s omnichannel strategy.

Today, mobile devices unleashed in bricks-and-mortar stores can enhance data collection, extend the aisle to include every product in the warehouse, show customers targeted and specific advertising, and transform your sales associates into personal assistants. Here’s how.

mobile wallet

Cash registers – the one-trick pony: Even new POS systems seem like ancient technology in contrast to mobile devices with POS peripherals. This line-busting technology is still a big player in retail, and mobile devices equipped with card readers can make checkout an anytime, anywhere process. That improves a store’s efficiency, as shoppers skip lines and sales associates close sales faster, enabling them to engage with more customers.

Mobile devices acting as payment terminals will only be more important in the future. For one, they’re already equipped to process NFC technology, such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, a significant advantage when young shoppers are embracing these mobile wallets — 33 percent of millennials say that making payments with a mobile wallet is important to them.

The in-store personal assistant: Constantly on the floor thanks to their mobile device, sales associates can commit to customers and learn about their tastes and purchase history. What they’re doing is called clienteling, which transforms your sales associates into personal assistants and recommendation experts.

With a mobile device in hand, employees become an even deeper part of the retail experience. In these cases, sales associates can show customers more products or services, and make recommendations based on previous purchases from similar customers. Retailer-built apps can show matching products that complete a wardrobe, for example, and give the option of picking it up in store (with details on where to find it) or ordering it online.

Not in store? We’ll order it for you: Hot products sell out fast, and no matter the retailer, a store can only keep so much inventory. Being out of stock of a popular or rare item is a common occurrence, but that isn’t good enough for customers. Sales associates can easily check inventory at other stores on mobile devices, and streamlined supply chain channels allow sales associates to order products from the warehouse and ship them directly to the customer with just a few taps.

No customer wants to leave a store feeling like they couldn’t get what they wanted, but product fulfillment with this “endless aisle” is more desirable than leaving emptyhanded.

A new way to collect and view data: As sales associates clientele and complete transactions, their mobile device is busy collecting and processing new customer data points. This rapid data collection generates a profile on the customer to better target sales offers, discounts or coupons, and rewards that improve the shopping experience and generate brand loyalty.

Mobile devices can also help check in and track loyalty rewards. In the past, points accumulated month over month – or maybe just once a year – so shoppers had to wait to use them. That’s a thing of the past thanks to better data collection and mobile devices. If shoppers can use reward points immediately, retailers are likely to see sales increase.

No more outdated in-store advertising: Traditional in-store advertising and price tags are static, but not on new mobile hardware. Secure mobile devices acting as digital price tags and signage can be quickly changed to reflect new discounts and sales. Advertising that highlights new products can also play over the digital signage that covers a store.

One way retailers are achieving this is through beacons. Still catching on, beacon technology collects more data about customers while advertising directly to them. On the advertising side of beacons lies one interesting capability, where retailers can advertise products five feet away through one beacon, and highlight another product on the other end of the store on another. But, the dual capability of data collection and advertising should help beacon technologies grow in retail stores in the future.

Improving customer experiences with better technology

Is mobile hardware a total replacement for your retail store’s POS devices? Maybe not yet. But it does enable employees to have more meaningful interactions with customers, improving their shopping experience and driving sales.

Customers will soon demand these in-store, mobile technologies that are alleviating many of the issues they face when shopping in person. These changes will force sales associates, and even managers, to better engage with customers and focus in on the shopping experience. That’s clearly a benefit to retailers.

Because these mobile changes will impact the entire retail operation, a business’s IT team, marketing experts, and heads of sales should assemble to develop a long-term strategy. These business units must work together in planning and implementing a mobile rollout, and its success will hinge on a full buy-in from all of these units.

Do you have questions about any of these mobile technologies? Reach out to your SHI account executive to learn more about mobile solutions for retail.

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