In the hypermarket, fast-food, fashion and luxury industries, but also in estate agencies and banks, the customer experience is going digital. In the age of multi-connected consumers, many of whom are fans of show-rooming, more and more retailers are supplying their employees with smartphones and tablets to improve the sales experience.
So what are the issues surrounding mobility in the retail sector? How do you go about implementing projects? What benefits can you expect? We talked to Jean-Guillaume Roger, Retail Market Manager for Econocom Group and a specialist in the transformation of the retail industry.
What sort of projects do you work on?
Jean-Guillaume Roger: Our customers are mainly chains of at least fifty shops. We help them redesign the path-to-purchase experience, from design to implementation, including digital signage, payment and purchasing aids. We also work a lot on mobile tools because we offer them services for an all-inclusive fee including hardware (tablets or smartphones), business applications and related IT services – for sales staff, logistics and order picking teams and managers. These tailored offerings enable us to combine all the group’s areas of expertise.
IMPROVING SALES expertise AND INCReASING PRODUCTIVITy
What are the advantages of rolling out mobile technology for retailers?
In points of sales, the main advantage of mobility is to improve sales staff’s expertise by rolling out a sales assistance tool.
“A mobile device gives sales staff access to a wealth of information, whenever and wherever they need it.”
With a smartphone or tablet, the salesperson can scan or take a photo of a loyalty card and view the customer’s purchasing history so they can better advise and guide them in their choice by offering them additional items. They can pull up the technical description of the products and check stock levels in real time.
Another important point is mobile management of the administrative and back-office tasks in a store: inventory, relabeling, receiving and tracking parcels, etc. With smaller retailers who don’t have dedicated operators, it’s often the sales staff themselves who perform these tasks.
“The time they save on administrative or manual tasks by using mobile devices means they can devote more time to customers and more added-value tasks.”
mobilitY: a real ORGANISATIONAL project
What degree of digital maturity are the companies you work with at?
“A mobility project is more than just a technological project: more than anything , it’s an organisational project.”
Sometimes our clients come to us with a very specific idea about what they want but most of the time, they’re really interested in benefiting from our experience and expertise. We try hard to understand their business processes so we can identify the benefits of using a mobile tool, so we can choose the right device: is it just going to be used by the sales staff or will it be shown to the customer, for example, to show them a product?
As for the apps, we talk to the client and establish their needs and offer them various functionalities. We can do the development ourselves, but we also have an ecosystem of partners who offer solutions for specific aspects: creating a form, document management to present a product catalogue, or electronic signatures.
different degrees of maturity
“Mobility is crucial for the retail sector, but not all companies have reached the same degree of maturity and experience. Many of them are still not sure and it’s our job to help them ask the right questions by giving them the benefit of our experience.”
At events like the Retail’s Big Show in New York, we meet a lot of CIOs and business line managers who are interested and come and see us to find out more about mobility and the advantages it can offer them.
“It’s not enough just to supply staff with a mobile device. You have to focus on use: which process do you want to digitalise? And what will the advantages be?”
We often organise exploration workshops to present the various possibilities and the range of uses, for customer interaction or optimising processes in order to reduce the amount of time spent on tasks with little added-value.
MANAGING CHANGE BY TRAINING a SELECTion of USERS
What sort of projects have you worked on recently?
We rolled out mobile devices for all the sales staff of a major retailer. We worked with a partner for application development and included a feature that enables them to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates by offering visibility over stock availability. That way they can give the customer information on product availability, wherever they are. If the product is available at a warehouse or another store, the salesperson can offer to have it shipped to the store or the customer’s home address within 48 hours.
Thanks to this feature, within a year, the group saw its total revenue increase by 0.1%.
“Providing digital tools to people who aren’t used to using a smartphone, even in their personal life, isn’t easy. It’s therefore essential to train a group of key users, i.e. employees who can then pass on their skills to other staff, for the project to be a success.”
At the moment, 98% of employees are satisfied and wouldn’t go back to the old system and stop using smartphones as sales tools.
How does a mobile device project deployment happen?
We often work on calls for tender, so we don’t have much of a role in the transformation stage. But even though we come in mainly at the early stage of the project, and think about mobile uses, we help clients find the answers to the questions they ask and can run test phases.
At the moment we’re experimenting with various devices on a key client in the multimedia sector. The client wants to supply its sales staff with equipment for the specific uses they’ve identified. In order to get a better idea of their requirements, we challenge them with other features and test the devices in real-life conditions; we lend them the devices to try out for a few weeks in their stores. We check compatibility between the different apps and tools with the end-users, to see whether there’s good customer interaction.
“Today’s consumers are looking for advice. They don’t want to queue at the till: if a similar product is available somewhere else, they’ll leave. Mobility is a way of addressing this issue and streamlining the path-to-purchase. And even if retailers have different degrees of maturity, they understand this. It’s a real hot topic at the moment”