Connecting with customers, enabling associates to become knowledgeable and empowering the IT organization to meet business needs should be the top three priorities of retailers, according to Motorola Solutions. The company unveiled several solutions Wednesday designed to help retailers meet those three goals with an end result of delivering “the shopping experience of the future.” From mobile POS solutions to smart badges that deliver tasks and product info to employees, Motorola executives demonstrated their vision of the retail future in a mock store setting in New York City. The “store” featured the company’s newest solutions in action, showcasing how technology is changing the customer experience. Before seeing the product demonstrations, however, attendees sat in on a panel with Motorola execs, and a couple of retail experts, that discussed the future of retail and technology’s vital role.
Motorola also revealed results from a study it conducted in May that polled 250 U.S.-based retail executives about how omni-channel retail trends are changing their business models and about their plans to implement mobile technologies within the next five years. The survey found that merchants today are struggling with meeting consumers’ “want it here, want it now” mentality while finding the right balance between their online presence and brick and mortar store locations.
It also found that 74 percent of retailers believed that developing a more engaging in-store customer experience is going to be business-critical over the next five years. And half of the surveyed retailers felt that integrating their online and in-store experiences would be crucial over the next five years.
Connecting with customers
To keep shoppers in their stores, retailers must provide customers with in-store Wi-Fi capabilities, said Allison Kenney Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail distribution leader at Deloitte, a consulting service that researches consumer behavior.
“Consumers are so used to being connected 24/7 already today that when they cannot make a connection — when the shopper can’t reach the babysitter at home or can’t get on their Facebook page and tell their friends they are about to buy something, the anxiety drives them out of the store,” Paul said during Wednesday’s discussion.
Retailers who don’t provide Wi-Fi, fearing customers will use it to find similar products online for cheaper prices, are actually the ones missing out on sales; disappointed customers will leave.
“We have an opportunity here to be connected with the consumer in-store and use that opportunity to communicate with them, to offer them special offers and in the future even be able to track their movements throughout the store,” Paul said.
Being able to tell where customers are inside the store provides retailers with other valuable info, such as which displays or merchandise gained the most attention. Managers can also use it to monitor the location of their employees.
Shoppers often enter stores armed with more information than employees, which leads to an expectation that associates should be able to quickly answer questions about product pricing, stock status and other information. Providing employees with product knowledge is essential to improving the customer experience, which is why Motorola has created new solutions — SB1 smart badge, MC40 Enterprise Assistant, new accessories for its E1Tablet and Mobile Workforce Management software — to transform employees from task workers into knowledge workers, said Jim Welch, senior vice president and general manager, North America Sales and Field operations, Motorola Solutions.
“To serve today’s educated and connected shopper, retailers have to equip their staff with the latest technology in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing trends affecting their business,” he said.
It’s also key to give employees easy-to-use solutions, considering most retailers don’t spend a lot of money on training since the industry’s turnover rate is so high. The solutions should be so intuitive that nearly any new employee should be able to pick one up and immediately start helping customers, Paul said.
“It’s not that you have to hire brain surgeons to work in the store, it’s that the technology is really enabling the retailer help the consumer. And the minimum wage worker is becoming a more valuable member of the organization because they’re much more knowledgeable,” she said.
SB1 badge: A majority of retail associates told Motorola they would benefit from a device like the SB1, which allows them to scan an item to check price and availability, have immediate access to product information, accept tasks and connect to managers and other employees via a push-to-talk feature.
The solution, which runs HTML5 server-based applications that enable task management, price checking, inventory look-up, and product information, is accessible to all associates on the sales floor. The badge contains a 3-inch e-ink screen, and is designed to be worn by associates on a lanyard, belt clip or armband.
MC40: The MC40 is a mobile device that provides the associate access to in-depth product information, data collection and mobile POS capability without leaving the customer’s side. This can result in fewer lost sales, a better shopping experience and greater shopper satisfaction, Welch said.
ET1 Tablet and accessories: Motorola’s retail study found that 39 percent of shoppers were least satisfied with the level of help or information that store associates were able to provide. The company thinks its ET1 Tablet could solve that problem by providing employees with the tools they need to answer questions, provide feedback and close a sale without leaving the customer’s side, said Girish Rishi, corporate vice president and general manager of mobile computing, Motorola Solutions.
With the ET1 scan module, store associates can provide an improved shopping experience by offering more product information and better sales support. The imager enables the capture of multiple barcode symbologies, including the ability to read mobile barcodes from cell phones, Rishi said.
Mobile Workforce Management: Motorola developed its Mobile Workforce Management software to help retailers manage tasks. More than three-quarters of all retail supervisors surveyed told Motorola that they assign tasks verbally or with handwritten notes during the day, and most (63 percent) have no method for electronically tracking task completion. This leads to a poor shopping experience because associates and managers don’t have an efficient way to coordinate the completion of work or respond to customer requests.
Motorola expects MWM to fix this problem by allowing managers to deliver tasks to employees’ mobile devices, reducing the need for store managers to physically walk the store and track the progress of each employee on their to-do list. The real-time exchange of information between associates and supervisors streamlines retail operations, Welch said.
MWM can integrate with all in-store and corporate business systems — including time and attendance, labor planning, project scheduling, promotion management, POS, kiosks and RFID sensors. The company said it also simplifies communications with a range of mobile devices and allows user information, group information and skill set data from partner systems to transmit back to the MWM server.