Ten tips for retail mobility success

Retailers across many sectors are finding that mobile technologies are a boon to the efficiency of their operations and can deliver many benefits both on and off the sales floor. Mobile technology not only plays a role in improving the customer experience, it can also save retailers money, make staff more effective and optimise stock levels.

Despite the plethora of improvements it can provide to any retailer, a refitting of in-store technology can be a complicated business that requires thorough planning and expertise. The following ten points are key in ensuring the technological transition is both hassle-free and profitable:

1. Outline the requirements. Think first of the need for introducing mobile technology into your store and how your individual needs will effect what is required. Are the devices being installed in order to boost revenue? Are they being installed in order to comply with new legislation, or in order to meet customer demands? Whatever the reason, the new devices must be intuitive to use and produce a return on investment. Before investing in a major refitting of your business, it’s important to clearly outline the scope of your requirements and what you hope to achieve. In order to remain cost-effective and lower any potential risk, make sure to stick to the original plan – it's all too easy to let a project drift by adding more functionality than what is actually required, which is best to avoid unless it can be achieved within the original budget and time limitations.

2. Finding the right software. Some research will be required in order to ensure your software solution matches your hardware and payment applications. The supplier can often provide case studies and references from clients currently using their technology, which will make it clearer if the technology you are investing in suits your retail environment and can ensure you meet your goals.

3. Finding the right hardware. A common error when adopting mobile technology is to leave the hardware last, a mistake that must be avoided. Tablets, for example, are often connected to peripherals such as printers, PIN entry devices or handheld scanners, relying on wireless or Bluetooth technology. Robust connectivity, therefore, is essential when choosing hardware, as any shortfalls in this area could result in problems that will drain the time of helpdesks.

4. Getting connected. The need for an effective Wireless LAN is essential for any store seeking to take advantage of mobile technology. In order to ensure a functional retail environment, connectivity is key. The retail location must be properly surveyed in order to uncover the best possible solution.

The most common problems for retailers and their customers are weak Wi-Fi signals, interference from other networks and improper installations. These problems can result in lost data, sales and revenue, which can result in employees being wary of using the new mobile technology and have a negative impact on the brand’s image and the customer experience. Decisions revolving around connectivity and hardware should be carefully considered in order to ensure success of the in-store mobile technology. An experienced IT services provider should be utilised to survey and install the proper Wi-Fi solution.

5. PCI Compliance. The implications for compliance with payment card industry (PCI) standards should always be considered if processing payments via the mobile solution is part of your business’s objectives. The requirements can be outlined by a qualified security assessor, although it is crucial to lay out a budget and timeline for the project as PCI can cover a wide range of solutions and the requirements of the solution can easily be overestimated.

6. Getting everyone on-board. The implementation of mobile technology into a retail operation represents a major change in the organisation of a business – it is therefore imperative to include all stakeholders in the decision, including store employees, customers, service partners and the IT team. This inclusion can go a long way in reducing hesitance to the major changes underway, as the introduction of mobile technology can be both embraced and feared by staff. Those resistant to the change may neglect the new devices, negatively impacting the business.

7. Deploying the solution. It should go without saying that proper installation and configuration is necessary for the new equipment to work as planned, so make sure that the IT services company contracted to manage these aspects has a history of working with retailers. A certain level of expertise is necessary in ensuring that point-to-point encryption of card payment data, chip-and-pin card security and Wi-Fi point of sale are up to snuff.

8. Supporting the solution. No matter how thoroughly planned and monitored the deployment of these systems is, it is essential to be prepared for any future failures. While some retailers assume that support for mobile devices and peripherals can be provided by posting parts to the site, remedying faults can often require expert diagnosis and support. Failing to acquire back-up with proper retail experience can result in additional costs, repeat visits from customers and incorrect parts being ordered – leading to further dissatisfaction from customers and frustration from staff.

9. Informing staff. This technological pivot can present a tremendous change in the day-to-day operations of a store, so staff must be properly trained in how to effectively use the new technology. If customers will be using this technology as well – self-service kiosks, for example – employees will need to become familiar with the technology in order to assist customers.

10. Protecting your investment. In order to protect the new devices – a big investment for any retailer – IT staff should be aware of the location of the mobile equipment at all times. This can be achieved through remote monitoring applications and nodes, of which there are many on the market. This software can be installed on the devices to keep IT staff updated on their location and functioning. They also allow firmware to be updated remotely, saving time for staff and cost for the retailer by increasing hardware longevity.

By keeping these ten points in mind, retailers can be assured they will avoid any potential pitfalls – inefficient devices, upset customers and hefty costs – leaving them time to appreciate the many benefits that mobile-enhanced retailing can provide for their business.

James Pepper is technical services director at Vista Retail Support.

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