Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Not Just For Shoppers: How Mobile Helps Store Associates

Written by  Josh Marti, Point Inside
VP site only PointInside head shotHave you ever worked as a retail store associate? If so, how long did it take you to memorize the location of 45,000 products? On day one, you’re just learning where to clock-in but by the end of the week, you could probably identify the location of the different departments. Chances are, you haven’t memorized all of the products and locations — no matter how long you’ve worked in a store — and things move around a lot each month.
Consider that the average store has between 800 and 2,500 categories and tens of thousands of products. Add in the impact of resets, seasonal items and inventory fluctuations, and you’ve got product in constant motion.
As we speak, this motion is only increasing. This past holiday season, retailers hired on temporary workers in record numbers in response to high sales predictions. For the 2014 season, Walmart hired 60,000 temporary workers, Kohl’s hired 67,000, Macy’s hired 86,000, and the list goes on. As we settle into the New Year, CIT reports that retailers plan to continue to bring on new employees as sales climb steadily throughout 2015.
No doubt that high retail sales is great news for the economy, but also poses some serious challenges for retailers. How can retailers maintain their brand promise during busy shopping periods, especially when hiring on completely new associates? How can retailers quickly train thousands of workers who need to hit the ground running on day one?
The answer is the same tool that shoppers already use in stores every day: Mobile.
Arming associates with mobile devices starts new temporary workers on the right footing by supplying instant information in the palms of their hands. Mobile also helps current associates, providing important visibility into product inventory, product location, associate location, store metrics, search and more. If a shopper asks where an item is, store associates can use their phones to look up the exact location instead of offering their best guess. Accurate product location also helps associates return items correctly to store shelves — a common problem in-store.
Most importantly, mobile can answer shoppers’ two most frequently asked questions: “Do you have it?” and “Where can I find it?” Many shoppers prefer to use their phones to get these answers rather than find and ask a real person. By looking up a product’s location and inventory in the aisle, shoppers can service their own requests, including the all-famous question: “Where is the bathroom?”
For those shoppers who would like to speak to a real person, mobile phones can also help shoppers find associates in-store. Wandering the store looking for an associate is frustrating for shoppers, other store associates and store managers alike. Imagine store associates being able to pinpoint their colleagues on a phone to let them know a shopper needs help, or shoppers able to find the location of the nearest associate and send him or her a message via mobile. The possibilities are endless.
Mobile also makes the checkout process seamless. I have yet to meet a shopper who loves waiting in the checkout line. To combat this, retailers such as Nordstrom have associates waiting in-aisle with mobile phones and bright green shirts, ready to check out any guest wherever he or she is at — streamlining the shopping experience for customers and making the process more efficient for employees.
The final piece of the mobile puzzle is its ability to make store operations more efficient — especially important for new employees just learning the ropes. Completing routine workflow management, such as walking the floor to perform managerial duties, can be difficult if employees have to walk to the front of the store to address each problem. Employees waste time and productivity by continually pacing across thousands of square feet.
With mobile, store associates can instead identify exactly where a problem is and notify the appropriate personnel to address it. Mobile tools can also help store associates carry out a number of other routine operations, such as setting a planogram, setting new stock on store shelves or reordering products. Employees can easily reorder items by scanning them using their phones or finding them through mobile product search.
Implementing mobile tools for associates requires its own strategy — but that’s a completely separate topic in itself. What retailers need to know now is that by empowering store associates with mobile, they can change conversations with shoppers from answering location and inventory questions to conversations where they can provide expertise and recommendations.

Mobile answers shoppers’ most-asked day-to-day questions while giving store associates both the confidence and the time to represent the brand. Using mobile, associates have the tools to truly be the connection between store operations and the enterprise to the shopper — in turn increasing revenue and basket size for retailers and improving the overall shopping experience for customers.