Increasing competition and rising customer expectations are creating challenges for retailers as they strive to grow their market share. Faced with an array of new entrants and the rise in popularity of online shopping, established retailers are on the hunt for ways to streamline their operations and improve service levels.
Information technology plays an important part in this process; however, many retailers are constrained by the significant investments they have already made in back-end systems. While they recognise this infrastructure no longer matches their needs, they are unable to justify its wholesale replacement.
Many are also facing the prospect of replacing their ageing fleets of mobile devices. The majority of Australian retailers are still using Motorola 3190 mobile terminals, which went end-of-life in late 2015. While reliable, these devices are cumbersome to use and require considerable on-the-job training for staff.
The cost and complexity of rolling out new devices at the same time as undertaking significant work on back-end systems is daunting. Such major shifts could cause disruption to supply chains and result in an inability to meet customer needs.
Enhance rather than replace
Rather than embarking on such broad-scale changes, many retailers are opting for a different approach. They are leaving their back-end systems in place and enhancing the front-end interface on their mobile devices.
By adding a new device interface, information can be displayed and commands entered in an intuitive manner. Users no longer have to deal with complex code strings or understand strange abbreviations. Instead, they can interact with their device in the same way as they do a modern smartphone or tablet.
By equipping staff with mobile devices sporting an intuitive interface, retailers gain a range of advantages. They include:
Better connection with shoppers
Customers are used to having a clear and intuitive interface when dealing with a retailer on their website or through an installed app on their smartphone, however, this experience is often far from the case when in-store.
This can be overcome by upgrading the interface on the mobile devices used by store staff. Complex codes can be replaced with clear details of product types and availability. The result is an improved experience for shoppers who are looking for extra information from staff. The interface can also carry the same branding as store signage.
Enabling retail associates
As well as improving the service experience for customers, upgrading the interface on mobile devices provided to retail associates provides other significant benefits. An intuitive interface significantly reduces training time, allowing new staff to become productive much more quickly.
This can be particularly important during peak shopping periods when large numbers of casual staff need to be brought up to speed as swiftly as possible.
Upgrading the user interface on mobile devices used by retail staff also delivers significant benefits for the IT department. Teams no longer have to worry about making complex and time-consuming changes to back-end systems.
All devices are provided with the same data as they have always been with changes only taking place within the device interface itself. This allows a single management platform to be used to control devices across all locations, reducing the load on IT staff.
Overall, application and management silos can be reduced, further removing complexity and expense for the retailer.
Ready for the future
By adopting this client device-centric approach to IT upgrades, retailers can ensure they are well placed to take advantage of future growth. Staff can become more productive and able to source the data they require quickly and efficiently.
For customers, better interfaces allow them to have a similar experience in-store as they do when online or using an installed app on their phone. Questions about stock items can be answered quickly with details clearly visible on an easy-to-understand screen.
Rather than being tied down by complex back-end systems, retailers will be able to improve their service levels and maximise their chances of securing long-term revenue growth.
Simon Storey is the ANZ Country Manager for Ivanti.
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