Mismanaged mobile technology is costing retailers - it’s time for a change

By Gary Lee, Chief Revenue Officer at the mobility specialists, B2M Solutions.

Retail workers today depend on mobile devices. Whether to scan barcodes for inventory management, or more sophisticated uses of mobility including mobile point-of-sale (POS) system, mobile returns, and endless-aisle applications, front line retail workers as well as warehouse personnel need their mobile devices to be fully operational at all times. 

So what happens when a hardware or software glitch renders these business-critical devices useless? It simply means that retail workers cannot properly service customers, complete sales tasks or ship out purchased goods. This is becoming an increasingly common occurrence within the retail space.

This issue is hitting retailers incredibly hard from a cost, productivity and employee wellbeing standpoint. The worst part is that they seem to not recognise the issue at hand, making it a seemingly hidden issue. The root causes of these issues vary but can be caused by faulty hardware, network connections or buggy applications. And the larger impact of these issues on the business as workers try to find a product in the warehouse or service a customer in-store and the mobile device that is supposed to help them do their job has failed them, often results in a stressed-out worker and an unhappy customer without the item they ordered.

We all know that the UK retail industry suffered its worst possible year in 2019. Sales figures dropped to their lowest in 24 years, leading to major job cuts and store closures hitting big chains like Mothercare and Thomas Cook. Clearly this indicates that the problems in retail go deeper than faulty mobile equipment. However, for any retailer that needs to make a significant impact on its bottom line right now, they have to be looking into how much money could be saved by improving the technology – and most importantly the management of that technology – employees are using. 

Exploring a change in technology during a downturn may sound counterintuitive, but a savvy investment now will lead to significant gains in the long run by cutting waste and improving employee productivity. A large part of a retailer’s success, particularly at busy times, is dependent on its mobile device strategy and the functionality of operational devices. From POS systems in stores to the portable tablets that sales personnel use, and the trusted mobile devices that warehouse staff and delivery drivers so heavily rely on, these devices are mission-critical to the functioning of a well-oiled retail machine. 

This kind of pressure can create problems and technology is often to blame. For many ill-prepared retail companies, Black Friday can easily turn into Bleak Friday. Take for example US department store, Macy’s, which experienced an unfortunate nationwide POS card machine failure on Black Friday back in 2017, causing major disruption to services and uncontrollable queues to form. This is the last thing any retailer wants to happen.

One way that retailers can address this problem proactively is to empower their IT teams. By putting tools like real-time monitoring and device analytics software into the hands of your IT staff, you change them from being a reactive to a proactive force for change in your organisation. This software will enable IT to better identify mobile device issues and take pre-emptive actions before any disruption can take place. This proactive approach limits the likelihood of devices failing or becoming faulty and reduces employee downtime.

Retailers that are able to monitor the health of their mobile devices in real-time are much more likely to know when a device is likely to fail, where devices are struggling to maintain connections to in-store WiFi, when devices are rebooting or what specific devices need a software update before it becomes an issue that affects operations at key times. These might sound like small problems, but the knock-on effect of each of these problems is vast, so having this information about your technology is vital.

The bottom line of all of this is that retailers need to make significant changes in 2020 to return to profitability. An investment now in improving the use of mobile technology will empower IT, it will empower workers and it will empower the business to better serve their customers both now and in the future.

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