This is part 1 of a 2 part series. We’re looking at how the use of ruggedized devices in retail can increase sales and optimize business processes such as inventory and logistics while decreasing equipment expenses.
“Clicks-to-bricks” is a trend that is not going away.
In the early 2000s, many e-commerce sites started to explore the traditional retail experience by opening up pop up shops. This was an excellent way to test a product, location or market without signing onto a long term lease. As an added bonus, they were used as a cool marketing experience that could spark engagement and sometimes go viral.
In the past few years, traditional e-commerce operations like Warby Parker, Bonobos and Rent the Runway have gone one step further and opened brick-and-mortar stores. They realized there is still a desire for customers to see, touch and try on goods before committing to a purchase. Harvard Business Review reports brick and mortar retailers still control between 94 percent and 97 percent of total retail sales. And while there’s no denying e-commerce and mobile commerce are here to stay, omni-channel retailing has become the best way for companies to serve their clients.
Paul Becker, a senior consultant at FitForCommerce told Entreprenuer “E-commerce may be up by double digits, but brick-and-mortar retail is still responsible for more than 90 percent of sales in the country. Expanding to retail stores is just another way for these pure-play e-tailers to capture some of that market share.”
Physical stores can better define a brand while at the same time giving retailers insight into their customers. Retailers can see what products their customers are drawn to first and how they interact with those products. Knowing the style, preferences and habits of your customers makes for great branding data and market research and allows the retailer to interact with their customers on a more personal level.
How to deliver effective services
A positive in-store interaction can translate into more online sales down the line, not just for majority e-commerce businesses but for all traditional retailers. A physical store can be an asset when transformed to deliver effective services to tech-savvy shoppers. So the question becomes: how to deliver effective services?
One way toward optimizing stores to become a major channel is through the use of ruggedized mobile devices and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) and retail solution software.
A ruggedized device is a mobile device (think of an iPad or a tablet) specifically designed to operate in harsh environments. In a typical retail environment this translates to a busy and crowded environment (stores) with multiple users (salespersons) operating devices in a rush, making it likely that the device will be dropped.
A ruggedized version of a consumer device offers durability, a rechargeable battery that can be switched out instead of waiting for a device to charge, a longer device lifecycle, barcode scanning productivity and multiple user capabilities on the same device. This translates into savings, security and device management for the retailer and a faster checkout and better customer service for the clientele.
The use of ruggedized devices in retail streamlines business operations and improves the customer experience. Major manufacturers of ruggedized devices include Honeywell, Pidion, Samsung, BlueBird and Zebra Technologies.
Does mPOS work?
Ask Nordstrom. In 2012, mPOS increased sales at Nordstrom by 15%. Although most retailers are using mPOS as “queue-busters” to facilitate faster checkouts, the potential is so much more. Apple stores have removed cash registers and equipped each representative with an iPhone or iPad to answer customer questions, check stock, and finalize sales.
Home Depot’s new First Phone devices work as smart phones, walkie-talkies, and inventory management tools while averaging approximately 100,000 transactions per week.
Three ways mobile devices increase sales and optimize customer relationship management:
1. Better Customer Service
- Mobile devices get associates on the floor and interacting with customers face-to-face, helping customers find what they’re looking for and giving them access to product information. This face-to-face interaction is a positive experience for customers.
- mPOS devices have built-in scanners and credit card readers that allow sales associates to take payments and email or text receipts from anywhere in the store, thereby cutting the time customers spend waiting in line.
- Using mobile devices makes it easier to shift staff to where they’re needed most. For instance, they can be used to facilitate returns after the holidays or add temporary additional sales power if a particular location is having a door buster sale.
2. Encourages Add-On Sales
- Sales associates can suggest complementary items. For example, a sales associate at a home improvements store can advise customers on items that others have also purchased for similar projects, thereby cutting out a second visit to the store.
- A mobile device can facilitate inventory lookup (alternate size/color) and price searches.
- A mobile device can show a customer’s sales history, allowing sales associates to make suggestions tailored to customer preferences.
- A sales associate with a mobile device can capture impulse purchases even after the customer leaves the store. For instance, an associate could send an email of items the customer looked at or tried on while in the store with a “buy now” option.
- The customer can place an order for an out of stock item with the associate right in the aisle and have the items shipped to their home.
3. Better Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- A mobile device simplifies tracking of a client’s account history for repeated and/or future sales.
- Retailers using mobile devices in stores can coordinate sales, marketing, call centers, and retail outlets in order to realize the salesforce automation.
- Tracking in-store sales with a mobile device makes it easer to offer tailored promotions, discounts, or services particular to the individual customer.
- A mobile device tracks and measures marketing campaigns over multiple networks. They can track customer analysis by customer clicks and sales.
- A mobile device can gain customer-specific details, such as product preferences, brand navigation, promotional redemptions, as well as their shipping and payment preferences.