In an over-stored, omnichannel world, every retail store location must make a strong impact on the bottom line. Retail leaders are discovering ways to unlock new value by leveraging two important assets: retail associates and mobile retail technology. With mobile devices in hand, retail associates can drive big increases in productivity and customer satisfaction, and as a result, store profitability.

Overcoming 21st Century Challenges

Retailers face several challenges in transforming their stores for the 21st century retail marketplace. These include inadequate revenue per associate, increases to the minimum wage, high workforce turnover, lengthy ramp-up times for new associates, excess associate downtime and unpredictable staffing requirements.

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Despite those obstacles, retailers need retail associates to work more efficiently than ever. They must engage and delight a digitally enabled, more demanding customer with a data-fueled, personalized experience, while also taking on new responsibilities such as click-and-collect and ship from store — services retailers correctly view as essential to compete with online pure plays like Amazon. It’s also more important than ever that associates support accurate store inventory and rapidly replenish the shelves, in order to meet the “need it now” expectations of today’s consumer. It’s a tall order, but not an unsolvable one. Companies such as Starbucks have been able to post among the retail industry’s highest net income per employee (NIPE), according to the most recently available reports from Seeking Alpha.

Mobile Fills the Information Voids

Those retailers recognize that to succeed in today’s digitally fueled marketplace, the entire organization must act as a single, well-oiled machine in delivering the brand promise. Associates need to get up to speed on their jobs quickly, have instant access to a wide variety of data and be able to switch tasks on a dime to support store profitability goals.

Mobile devices are what makes that possible. By putting a smartphone or tablet in the hands of every associate, retailers transform the role of the store associate by making the job easy to learn, more productive and more empowering. Here’s how:

  • Familiarity eases training: Yesterday’s costly, purpose-built scan guns were intimidating, hard to learn and functionally limited. Smart devices are second nature to most retail associates, making training faster and easier. Training can even be delivered on demand on the device. Mobile is the sort of technology that retail associates want in their jobs: Tulip Mobile found associates believe they can do a much better job if they could access inventory, detailed product info, prices and other data.
  • Fast response to customer expectations: Customers feel better served when associates use mobile devices to get the answers they need. A mobile device empowers an associate to quickly access all of a retailer’s resources — rich product data, inventory locations, loyalty status, delivery choices, payment options and so on — to solve the need and satisfy the customer.
  • Broad array of features: Smart devices come in all shapes and sizes to ensure the associate can deliver the complete brand experience. For example, a tablet’s big screen enables assistive selling; powerful processors make for lightning-fast data exchanges with cloud apps and easy add-ons like scanners; card readers and imagers instantly adapt the device to specific use cases. Samsung offers a diverse portfolio at every price point and will work with your organization to right-size the device for your budget, so no retailer buys a bigger device than they need to support a return on investment.
  • Optimizing productivity: A store workforce is a valuable asset that can be directed to a wide variety of tasks, but things change fast. With the right mobile device in every associate’s hand, store managers can quickly see how they’re utilizing labor and instantly reallocate associates as needed. And if you choose an especially versatile device with open APIs, an associate can switch from inventory tasks to mobile POS to serving customers with a few simple clicks — no more delays and downtime.

Retailers are catching on to the empowering benefits of mobile. BRP found more than half of retailers (51 percent) cite empowering associates with mobile tools as a top customer engagement priority.

Maximizing the Value of the Store Associate

According to Harvard Business Review, “Research suggests that retailers tend to view store associates as an expense to be controlled rather than as a medium to provide better service for customers.”

Smart retailers are flipping that script. They recognize that a digitally empowered store associate is not only more productive, but more empowered to ensure that every customer who steps through their doors can have a positive brand experience. By putting a smart device in every associate’s hands, retailers transform the store workforce from an “expense” into one of their most profitable assets.

Learn how you can improve retail associate performance with data and mobile devices in our free white paper. For more insights about how mobile is reshaping consumer behavior, watch this video.

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Lisa Terry

Lisa Terry is a seasoned B2B writer of articles, blogs, research reports, case studies, white papers and e-books, with a long list of media and corporate clients in hospitality as well as retail, IT and supply chain. She has written for Hospitality Technology, HTNG publications, Nation’s Restaurant News, RIS News, Advertising Age, Consumer Goods Technology, Inbound Logistics, Washington Technology and many others.

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