With cost-of-living pressures creating a higher barrier to sales in the retail sector, businesses are challenged to meet heightened customer expectations and create a seamless shopping experience. To address these needs, retailers are turning to advanced technologies to improve inventory visibility and customer buying history and to surface accurate delivery information.
As a result of the push within the retail sector to implement new technologies, the number of devices in global organisations has increased globally by 37% in the past year. Retailers today increasingly rely upon new apps, handheld point of sale (POS) devices, mobile printers and barcode scanners. However, not all Australian retailers have full visibility into how their devices are performing and what data they are collecting, nor do they have the ability to manage these devices remotely to ensure effective usage.
How can retailers better manage their devices to ensure that they are helping to optimise work processes and support a positive customer experience?
Consumer Expectations vs. Technology Realities
The reality for Australian retailers is that consumers are accustomed to leveraging technology to improve their daily lives and expect the same experience when shopping. In fact, according to a new industry research report from SOTI, Techspectations: Consumer Demand for Digital Transformation in Retail, 30% of Australian shoppers have considered shopping with a different retailer to get a better in-store tech experience.
Deploying mobile devices throughout a retail environment in isolation won't necessarily improve the customer experience, though; rather, retailers must also ensure they are supporting that technology with the right software, management, and processes.
"We're seeing retailers increase their investments in technology, but the research shows that they don't actually have the visibility of where the technology is actually falling short," Carl Rodrigues, President and CEO of SOTI, explained during SOTI's recent Global Connected Retailer Roundtable event. "The essence of deploying technology lies not just in its implementation but in its effective management."
To better understand what steps retailers must take to meet the in-store expectations of consumers in 2024, it's important to start by identifying the gaps.
Strategic Technology Management for Retailers
Whether they're located in the warehouse or on the shop floor, self-serve kiosks, scanners, smart shopping carts and mPOS devices only benefit customers when they work. When they go down – and there's nobody on site who can fix the issue – it can lead to complete operational disruption and a poor customer experience. One of the top challenges for retailers is gaining and maintaining visibility of their fleet of devices.
Trek Bicycle Corporation (Trek) is a leading global bicycle and cycling product manufacturer and distributor brand with expanding operations in 80 countries. They are one of many retailers that have experienced challenges with their in-store device management and its ability to support these devices globally. Struggling with device security, device performance insights, and troubleshooting device issues, Trek experienced hours of unnecessary downtime that impacted productivity and revenue.
"We have more than 300 devices spread across our eight facilities, and at some of these facilities, they don't speak English. So, troubleshooting technology issues internally for our manufacturing warehouses was a huge challenge for us," said Tom Spoke, Director of Global IT at Trek Bicycle Corporation. "Simply knowing where all our devices are, their status, health, things like that and being able to perform troubleshooting remotely was never something we had before."
Trek has seen major improvements in its operational and worker productivity after leveraging SOTI MobiControl and SOTI XSight, which are all part of the SOTI ONE Platform. Trek now has visibility into all its device's status and battery health and can monitor how, when and where they are being used, as well as quickly diagnose, support and troubleshoot issues remotely. This ensures its distribution facilities can ship same-day orders, so stores have available stock for consumers.
Bridging the Supply-Demand Divide with Advanced Technology
The retail supply chain stretches from the warehouse to the customer's front door – and all points in between, including the delivery truck, the distribution centre, and the store shelf. The technology required to manage these different systems needs to "talk" to each other to ensure access to the latest data regarding inventory availability or delivery times. Total real-time visibility of business mobility is essential for retailers, with 55% of consumers wanting same-day-in-store pickup for online orders and 77% expecting to always know the status of their orders. However, with sophisticated personalisation and seamless online processes setting high expectations for shoppers, in-store technologies are struggling to level up. To address this, retailers must invest in AI-driven solutions and device management to provide consistent and convenient shopping experiences in both physical stores and online.
One retailer that has successfully navigated modern inventory challenges is Cheap as Chips. The discount variety store chain, with 51 locations across regional and suburban Australia, modernised its retail operations by leveraging SOTI MobiControl to manage its fleet of mobile devices. This decision came as a solution to the logistical hurdles posed by its dispersed workforce and the need for efficient inventory management and customer service activities.
"Our store associates rely on mobile devices to scan barcodes, manage inventory across different locations and process transactions from anywhere in the store, without the need for a fixed point-of-sale (POS) system. However, due to the remote locations of our retail stores, managing and maintaining devices is not straightforward," explained Daniel Whittle, Head of Technology at Cheap as Chips.
Through the implementation of SOTI MobiControl, Cheap as Chips have addressed the challenge of ensuring all employees have real-time access to the same information, no matter their location, thus significantly reducing the risk of costly device downtime and optimising customer service and inventory management tasks.
To meet the needs and expectations of modern consumers in 2024 and beyond, retailers must focus on prioritising the management of their critical devices. They must invest in solutions that best manage and maintain their technologies to a point where they operate at full, seamless potential.
"In the current climate, retailers should maximise existing technology investments by conducting an inventory of devices like printers, scanners and tablets already within your supply chain. Seek partners capable of integrating and managing these assets, avoiding piecemeal solutions and enhancing operational efficiency remotely. This is the best step retailers can take towards building a future-fit supply chain with efficient operations for both online and physical environments," concluded Rodrigues.