The Mobile Advantage in the Retail Enterprise

Everywhere you look, people are using their smart devices, whether they’re mobile phones, tablets or wearables. This trend is only going to continue to increase, just think about it: 44 percent of children under age 17 own a smartphone and 22% of the global population owns one.

Considering this, it’s critical for today’s retailers to understand how to leverage mobile technologies to connect with their customers. We have seen progress in this area with retailers adopting, shopping / information apps, mobile-optimized websites, and mobile point-of-sale. However, we believe that there is a huge opportunity for retailers to leverage mobile technologies within their enterprise. In fact most employees store managers and above do not need a desktop PC or a laptop to be effective in their jobs. What they need is a mobile device – a tablet.

Leveraging mobile tools (m-tools) from sourcing through selling not only improve on communications, efficiencies, and data accuracy, but can also offer access to new insights, extend the life of legacy systems and enhance the quality of life for employees.

Enterprise M-tools: Enterprise-wide mobile tools can provide a huge opportunity for retailers to gain a significant competitive advantage by enabling a more responsive nibble organization through improve commutations, collaboration, and data collection speed and accuracy.

These tools provide innovation in the areas of:

  • Overall productivity
  • Product design
  • Product sourcing
  • Store operations
  • Customer delivery
  • Customer interactions

Let’s take a high-level overview of these areas:

Productivity: Mobile productivity tools can enable more efficient ways to:

  • Book meeting rooms
  • Manage compliance (eg policies and procedures)
  • Access performance dashboards
  • Deliver company news, including articles and messages in text, audio and video formats
  • Manage time and attendance (ie workforce management)

Sourcing: Retailers’ sourcing teams are the road worries that travel thousands of miles a year in search of factories to manufacture quality products for the right price. Many of these factories are located in remote areas of the world with poor communication infrastructures. This hurdle hasn’t prevented retailers from trying to gain better control over the production process by implementing web-based PLM systems. These efforts started over 10 years age, with the goal of delivering a consistent process, across categories. I have learned first hand that the results have been very mixed, not quite delivering on the original promise.

Sourcing teams typically write product information down on paper as they toured factories, then manually re-entered the data into web-based PLM applications or electronic forms on their laptops back in their hotel rooms in the evenings. Today’s mobile sourcing apps have the potential to fundamentally change the quality of life for these teams, providing them with tools that are designed to help them capture data and images on mobile devices and then automatically update the head office systems without re-typing. Sourcing apps can provide the ability to:

  • Efficiently capture factory audit data and images while in the factory
  • Capture product-testing results
  • Access up to date reference materials
  • Have electronic signing of compliance documents
  • To be the front-end access to leverage legacy PLM systems

Store Operations: There are numerous opportunities in-store for mobile usage, head office communications, performance dashboards, training, product information, and mobile POS. These m-tools engage our tech savvy employees, and enable them to be more productive, and provide better shopping experiences for customers.

Is your business ready to embrace M-tools? The era of the mobile retail enterprise is here and transforming your business provides a huge competitive advantage, however, this transformation cannot happen overnight. Have you started? Has your business established a strategic mobile framework to minimize re-work and reduce risks?

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About the Author:

Ian Rogers is an accomplished business leader with 20+ years in Retail / Supply Chain Management, Portfolio, Program, and Project Management. Ian’s expertise comes from working in multiple countries (Canada, UK, US, China) and in multiple sectors including manufacturing and multi- channel retail (office products, mass merchandising, lifestyle brands). Over the years Ian has worked with companies as both a senior line leader and as a management consultant in Supply Chain and IT. This broad based experience provides him with the ability to take a holistic view, thereby understanding the potential impact changes in one area of the business will have on other areas.