How Mobile is Transforming the Retail Post COVID-19 - Stratix

How Mobile Is Transforming Retail Staffing and the Shopping Experience Post Covid-19: In-store and Beyond

Written by Peter Sciara

4 Min Read


The rise of the digital revolution and the empowered consumer, combined with the need for social distancing and stringent cleaning protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, are forcing wholesale change in how retailers serve their markets. At the top of the list is reinventing the store experience while maintaining safety protocols, including how they leverage one of retail’s greatest assets: staffing.

Smart retailers are paying close attention to what consumers now expect and are adapting their brick-and mortar operations to deliver a safe experience when they walk through the front doors. These key insights are shaping their plans:

  1. Consumers appreciate being helped in a store — if the associate can safely provide real value. Consider that:
    – Sixty-four percent of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience and 71 percent would rather interact with a human than a chatbot or some other automated process, according to PwC
    -Eighty-eight percent told TimeTrade they are somewhat or extremely likely to make a purchase when helped by a knowledgeable associate. NCR and IHL Group reported 77 percent higher sales growth for retailers providing mobile sales tools for staff and 92 percent higher for mobile points of sale (POS).
  2. The priority for many customers today is to get in and out of the stores as quickly and safely as possible. According to Mckinsey, safe delivery modes such as BOPIS, drive-through and contactless checkouts are increasingly important and have seen a lot of growth since the pandemic.
  3. Consumers love self-service, until they don’t. Goldman Sachs uncovered this duality from an adjacent industry, retail banking. According to Bloomberg, a Goldman Sachs consumer survey found that “People want to find answers without assistance — until they can’t and immediately want help from a qualified banker. There’s high tolerance for self-service until it fails, and then there’s no tolerance. As banks across the country reassess branches, those findings keep getting validated.”  Self-service is altering the formula for customer experience with shoppers preferring to have the ability to find the products they need quickly easily, there is no tolerance for errors.

Given the consumer preference for the right assistance at the right time, the concept of Clienteling is gaining increasing traction. Clienteling enables associates to develop profitable relationships with customers by maintaining contact beyond the store environment.

This includes:

  • Contacting customers via email/SMS to share links to suggested products online or in-store
  • Informing customers when similar or new products are in stock
  • Inviting customers to instore events and promotions
  • Reminding customers to repurchase items that might be running low
  • Sending personalized birthday or anniversary messages/discount codes
  • Informing customers of updated shopping hours or new safety protocols

The aim is to increase customer loyalty and drive sales, while also increasing associate motivation by rewarding them for the resulting revenue uplifts.

Consumers want associates at the ready, armed with tools to step in at the moment of truth. Samsung can help with its broad portfolios of smartphones and tablets. Retailers can choose devices that deliver exactly the capabilities their associates need without overspending on capabilities and capacities that will go unused. Android devices like the Samsung Tab Active2 can make store associates more versatile, because it allows them to take care of clienteling, barcode scanning and mobile POS all from one convenient device. As more routine tasks like checkout and taking inventory increasingly lend themselves to automation, retailers see a golden opportunity to move associates away from cash lanes and pickup areas and into the middle of the store, where they can provide quick and personal services to customers.

Data Changes Everything

Access to data changes everything about how retailers can run their stores. That’s why retailers are allocating so many resources to deploying new technologies to the store floor: store IT budgets are up 5 to 6 percent across all segments of retail, according to RIS News. All these new endpoints — associate mobile devices, digital signage, kiosks, sensors and more — enable retailers to both collect and deliver valuable information to help keep consumers safe and provide an experience that makes shopping in store worth it.

For example, data collected from sensors and equipment can help retailers understand shopping patterns in real-time, so they can make sure staff is sent to the places it’s needed and manage social distancing within the store. So instead of scheduling and allocating labor by department according to historical traffic patterns set uniformly for every store in a group, managers can monitor what’s happening right now in their own stores and send associates there ready to serve or change traffic patterns to maintain safe distances for shoppers.

Associates armed with mobile devices can take things from there. Real-time data enables them to give valuable answers that truly support the customer’s needs — locating inventory, checking promotions, showing a product video and so on — and then process the transaction on the spot so the customer can be on their way. The associate becomes the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a click on a website: having all the answers, accessible via mobile device, ultimately delivering the valuable assistance consumers want.

Then, when store traffic wanes, they can use those same mobile devices to attend to other store floor tasks: stocking shelves, picking digital orders, updating signage and so on.

The Empowered, Connected Associate

Access to data that consumers actually value doesn’t just serve customers. It also enriches and elevates what it means to be a store associate. When a retailer provides every associate with a mobile device, the right data and quality training in assistive selling, they empower them. Associates now have the tools they need to drive their own success.

The Evolving Role of Clienteling

In some high-touch retail scenarios, they can even use these tools to become brand influencers on the store floor. “What Clienteling 4.0 really does, if you wanted to sum it up, is turn a store associate into something more like an affiliate seller,” according to Forbes. “Because consumers may be acting directly on something generated by a store employee, it’s much easier to track the direct influence that store employee has on generating sales. And some retailers are paying direct commissions for those sales.”

Innovation in training supports the transition to a more sales-focused role for associates. Walmart, for example, is deploying virtual reality to stores for associate training. Virtually practicing skills such as assistive selling is proving highly effective; Walmart reported 10 percent to 15 percent increase in test scores, as well as improvements in confidence and associate retention. Mobile devices can also deliver training in short, digestible segments applicable to the task at hand. Retention is particularly important, as employee turnover typically runs at 65 percent, according to a Korn Ferry study.

For retailers, mobile devices enable a transition to “universal” associates. They are no longer assigned to a specific area such as cash-wrap, waiting around to serve customers, but become a consumer-centric sales force leveraging retail technology to dynamically meet needs wherever they emerge. That enables retailers to optimize the use of their retail staffing, prioritizing the customer experience. It also changes the economics and even the layout of the store, with more labor and space directly driving revenue.

Partnering With Stratix and Samsung  

Retailers who want to create great customer experiences and empower associates will find an indispensable partner in Stratix and Samsung. With its mobile platforms and industry leading ecosystem, Samsung delivers devices, at all price points, that are optimized for business. With Samsung Knox, retailers can deliver devices that are locked down for business use only. Devices can be remotely managed so that the latest operating systems and apps are always in place. They can also be secured so that usage is controlled, data is secure and the device locks down when removed from the store. Stratix specializes in planning, deployment and complete mobile lifecycle services for your mobile devices including Day-2support. Stratix leverages a wide range of partnerships to guarantee your mobile program is deployed, integrated and supported with the right technology for every aspect of your enterprise mobility. And we integrate it all to give your organization the convenience of a single point of contact.

The powerful combination of empowered associates, real-time data and feature-rich mobile devices are key tools enabling retail transformation. They enable retailers to completely transform the store experience, including optimizing the role of the associate for the benefit of employees and customers alike.

Ensure your business is on the cutting edge of retail technology by checking out Stratix’s full line of retail technology solutions and Samsung mobile devices. To find out more about how you can empower your retail associates with mobile devices and data download our white paper, “Transforming Retail Associate Performance“.

Transforming Retail Associate Performance

In the six-foot economy, mobile and data are revolutionizing the store floor. Get tips for optimizing your mobile ecosystem including automating and streamlining back-office tasks with mobile.

Get White Paper