Posted By Valerie Olague
Americas Business Group Lead
As established retailers assess the rapidly changing retail landscape, many are investing heavily in employee empowerment to enhance the in-store experience and combat sales lost to online merchants. And while empowering employees to help customers is the bedrock on which many retailers build their business, what is genuinely new is the proliferation of mobile devices as the empowerment tool of choice for customer-facing employees. During my Christmas shopping this season, I encountered all kinds of mobile sales tools, some very easy for me to interact with and frankly, some quite clumsy.
That mobile devices are changing the way the most innovative retailers are engaging with customers is increasingly obvious. The benefits are many: Employees no longer need to leave a customer to check product details, availability or pricing on a PC located elsewhere in the store. The most innovative retailers are using real-time telemetry from the devices in their stores, gaining new insight into demand and customer behavior based on analysis of information being accessed and consumed on their employees’ devices. This is an exciting opportunity for retailers to take advantage of device and technology innovations to deliver the best value to customers through improved operations and sharp business insight. The key is to provide technologies that are not only easy for the retailers, but are also easy for the store associates and customers to interact with.
Many retailers have defined their in-store mobile strategy based on what is available in the market today without truly understanding what kinds of experiences can be enabled for associates and customers, using both today’s embedded technologies and products and new capabilities that will be available shortly. What if the same user experience as a smartphone or a tablet could be delivered in a sleek, durable and easy-to-carry form factor that could be designed specifically for retailers, incorporating peripherals such as credit-card and barcode readers? These kinds of “industry mobile devices” can be custom designed specifically with the store associate and customer experience in mind while ensuring a secure, connected and managed environment that retailers and their IT departments require.
I am an admitted embedded technology nut. Wherever I go, I always ask questions about how these technologies are being used as well as whether the experiences provided are meeting the needs of the end users. For instance, when shopping last week, I asked several sales associates at a major department store how they liked using the smartphone devices that they were using to process my returns and purchases. One in particular indicated that she loved the opportunity that the technology provided to move away from a counter and interact with customers on the floor. She also indicated that interacting with such a small surface area could be clunky and error prone.
A few said the screens on the devices broke far too easily and that the device, which uses their store’s internal wireless network, was often slower than their own personal smartphones. Over the next few months, ask these questions wherever you encounter mobile devices when you shop, and see if you get some ideas about how you can make your own deployment something that delights customer without having to experience all of the same pitfalls.
At this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention & EXPO, Microsoft and its partners are showcasing new experiences for retail featuring the Windows Embedded platform and its many possibilities for handheld and mobile device applications. We’re introducing some exciting products that can change how your customers perceive the value of the store experience. Visit us in booth #1005 and let us show you how The Home Depot is driving customer empowerment using mobile devices as part of their deployment of intelligent systems