Despite the near global saturation of mobile phones, most store associates are not enabled with mobile technology, and are even discouraged from bringing their own devices, which would help streamline engagement with customers, on the sales floor.

A recent Retail Systems Research article Where Are Mobile’s Biggest Opportunities? notes that mobile devices are “a key component of small retailers’ going-forward strategy in stores. They recognize that consumers have come to their stores for some reason; that they (one day) plan to capitalize on this opportunity by arming their store associates with the same technology shoppers already have.”

The numbers are eye-opening, if not staggering: 56% of small retailers and only 14% of large retailers see mobile devices as game changing. Why? Maybe it’s because many retailers are clinging to the thoroughly outdated notion that they determine when and how consumers shop.

We know that the balance of power has shifted almost entirely to the consumer (this is explored in-depth in The Democratization of Retail).This reality is difficult for retailers, especially larger and less-nimble retailers, to accept because of the implications it has on their technology and processes. However, in order to change the game, retailers, big and small, must prioritize mobility for store employees. Here’s why:

  • Return of the associate as expert vs. order-taker
  • Better customer experience
  • Easy to use

Return of the Associate as Expert
Few can argue that today’s consumer, with access to products, pricing and inventory via mobile devices, is better informed than most store associates. But what if associates had access to the same information – and more – than customers? Now the associate becomes an expert providing additional value to shoppers in the store. By providing consistent value to customers, through expert knowledge, retailers can truly differentiate their brand from competitors.

Better Customer Experience
Empower associates to provide a consultative experience and engage with customers where decisions are made—on the sales floor. Consider these two scenarios:

  1. A customer finds a dress she likes but is unable to find her size in the color she wants. After looking around for a few minutes the customer approaches an associate at a frontend register and inquires about the item. The associate leaves the customer for several minutes to check inventory in the back and upon returning notifies the customer that there is no stock available for that color and size.
  2. An associate approaches a customer who is looking at dresses and asks if they can provide assistance. The customer says she is unable to find the dress she likes in her color and size. The associate, still there with the customer, uses their mobile device to look up in-store inventory, or find the desired dress from inventory available online or other store location.

The second scenario not only allows the associate to provide a better customer experience in the store but it also saves a sale.

Easy to Use
Have you ever experienced a checkout with an associate in training? The transaction probably took longer than expected and was sprinkled with comments like ‘I’m sorry, I am new’ or ‘Hold on. Let me get the manager to help.’ That’s because traditional point-of-sale systems are not user friendly and require a steep learning curve. On the flip side, you have probably seen toddlers playing with mobile phones; the device is so intuitive that even a preschooler can figure out how to access YouTube and watch their favorite show before you even realize it’s happening.

The point is, associates are already thoroughly familiar with mobile devices. If your POS leveraged existing technology, even brand new employees would be more effective with store technology.

It is high time for retailers to embrace mobile technology in their stores. Those that do will be the clear winners.

For more insight download the Future Store Manifesto.