From the need to adopt chip-and-PIN technology to the surge of competition from e-Commerce, the retail space has experienced many challenges and changes that have left businesses searching for a way to keep up with the pace. One of the most impactful changes to date is the rise of mobile technology throughout retail organizations. Retailers know that arming their employees with mobile devices will allow them to stay connected, better leverage data and provide a better experience to customers.
Due to the nature of the retail environment, some retailers have opted to adopt a consumer-grade device in the front of the house and a separate, more rugged device for backend operations like warehousing. On the surface, this approach makes sense — most employees are comfortable with consumer devices and the price tag on the front end is more appealing. However, managing the deployment of two devices comes with a fair share of challenges. Managing multiple device types adds complexity in terms of support, management and training. Not to mention, a retail environment can be just as rough as field use with a high risk of drops and employees that are a bit aggressive with their devices. A consumer-grade device isn’t guaranteed to last through the wear and tear of daily use.
Fortunately, enterprise-grade devices have taken on a more consumer-friendly look and feel that is well suited for the retail environment, from the front of the store to the back of the store and all of the processes in between. There are several reasons that modern retailers should consider the deployment of enterprise-grade handheld devices across their organization:
Streamlined Processes And Efficiency
From the outside looking in, the retail environment may seem simpler than meets the eye. But a customer walking into a store to make a purchase is just the tip of the iceberg. From order management to product inventory and fulfillment, there are a multitude of tasks that happen on the back end to keep a retail company operational. Without the right device, retailers may need to use various pieces of hardware, like a barcode scanner, chip reader and RFID reader, to execute a single sale. Being able to use one device to manage everything from the first customer interaction to the final shipment greatly reduces complexities and makes for a more streamlined process. There’s no need to switch out devices or tap into a separate workforce to handle one side of things or the other. Not to mention, having just a single device results in lower maintenance costs, simplified training and conservation of resources.
Managing Software Updates
In the age of mobile technology, something newer and brighter is always just around the corner. Especially for consumer devices, OS changes are nearly constant as hardware manufacturers look to stay innovative. However, OS changes require a great deal of maintenance, especially with a consumer device. The longer a retailer keeps a consumer-grade device, the more difficult it becomes to keep it updated and operational to meet their needs. This leaves retailers constantly outrunning end of life before needing to deploy an entirely new set of devices. An enterprise-grade device takes this worry away with an average shelf life of five years, giving retailers peace of mind that their devices are equipped with the latest and greatest. Plus, there is less strain on IT teams to keep devices updated.
Maintenance And Support To Meet The Retail Environment
In near constant use, mobile devices used in the retail environment take a beating. Think about when your own personal device needs a repair. When retailers deploy consumer-grade devices, they have to go through the same process a consumer would, but on a larger scale and for devices that are imperative to keeping the business up and running. This level of a support may be enough for the everyday consumer, but not for running a business.
Manufacturers of enterprise-grade devices generally have a better understanding of how devices are treated in a retail environment and offer support to match that. From a designated repair center to on-site tech support, deploying an enterprise-grade device means you also get top-notch service. Not to mention, these devices are already purpose-built with specific rugged features that provide greater longevity for an environment that tests the limits of technology. Of course, accidents are inevitable and when devices do require service, retailers can have peace of mind that their enterprise-grade devices will be supported from first purchase to end of life.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Throughout all of the changes in the retail industry, one thing has remained the same: the customer always comes first. Technological advancements have developed in an effort to enhance the customer experience and in the digital age, it’s more important than ever before. Be it inventory management or tracking a shipment, there is so much that happens on the back end to fulfill a purchase and ensure a positive experience for a customer. At the heart of it all is the data captured through a sale, and using one device to track data during the entire process provides a huge advantage for retailers. For example, with a single enterprise-grade device, retail employees can look up a product, see if it’s in store and send any backordered items to the customer’s home address — all within a few minutes of a customer walking into a store. Being able to connect on all of these levels at the same time enhances the experience for both the customer and retailer.
As consumers increasingly digitize their lives, they expect experiences to be just as mobile and digital as they are, and retail is no exception. For this reason, retailers are looking for ways to execute a sale as quickly and conveniently as possible, and a mobile device drives this enhanced way of approaching customers. A consumer experience that is enhanced by speed and technology makes a customer more likely to come back. Taking it one step further, retailers can use their mobile devices to capture data for predictive modeling based on a customer’s habits or social media activity. Not to say that a consumer device isn’t capable of capturing this data, but it takes the addition of component after component to meet the same ability of an enterprise-grade device.
No matter where you are in the retail environment, mobile matters. Whether interacting with a customer behind the cash register or scanning inventory in the warehouse, the performance and capability of a mobile device has a significant impact on both operational efficiency and the customer experience. Deploying one enterprise-grade device may be the answer to providing retail companies with the competitive edge they need to stay relevant and successful.
Mario Carrillo is a product manager in Panasonic North America’s mobility division.