How retailers can use mobile management services to build seamless in-store experiences

By Jonathan Crowl

| Retail

Even as online retailers make moves to build brick-and-mortar retail presences, other physical retailers are struggling to adjust to this disruption, according to DM News. As CNBC reports, J.C. Penney has suffered seven straight quarters of revenue decline, while Macy’s, Kohl’s and Barnes & Noble all saw their holiday revenues decline in 2016. The recent trend of e-commerce companies entering the physical retail space demonstrates the revenue opportunities they see there.

Opportunities in the brick-and-mortar retail space are tied to each brand’s ability to create a seamless store experience. Mobile management services are a foundational technology for this type of business strategy, enabling innovative retailers to build smart store experiences that leverage mobile technology.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the percentage of consumers expecting to shop online this holiday season is nearly identical to the percentage expecting to shop in brick-and-mortar stores (56.5 percent and 56.6 percent, respectively). Though e-commerce sales are growing more rapidly and some large department stores are struggling, total holiday sales, including in-store purchases, still grew at a solid 3.6 percent in 2016. Consumers still enjoy visiting brick-and-mortar stores, but they increasingly expect a more dynamic retail experience that takes advantage of mobile and personal technology.

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Creating a seamless, dynamic mobile experience requires a management solution capable of connecting to dozens — even hundreds — of mobile touchpoints throughout the store. By implementing a service that offers easy management, cost control and security for the entire mobile environment, retailers can now marry their physical stores with some of the best features of the online shopping experience.

Building a mobile-enabled experience

A truly seamless in-store experience will feature mobile technology at virtually every stage of the shopping journey. Geofences will give consumers access to exclusive in-store experiences within a retailer’s mobile app, and beacons placed throughout the store can trigger specific actions or content displayed through that app based on a consumer’s location in a store.

Stores can update and coordinate digital signage through mobile management services while creating new experiences through the use of smart mirrors and other futuristic retail technologies that are quickly entering the mainstream.

With the use of managed mobility services (MMS), such a complex ecosystem would be inconceivable for most companies. Each device would need to be managed separately, and cracks in the overall security would make businesses far too liable to a devastating data breach. The costs of managing this mobile infrastructure would likely surpass any benefits the technologies offer, wiping out their ROI. However, through an MMS, retailers can integrate these technologies into the larger infrastructure of a management service capable of centralizing device management and strengthening security for the entire mobile environment.


Enabling a clienteling strategy

Increasingly, brick-and-mortar retailers are putting mobile technology into the hands of their workers. According to Retail Dive, 89 percent of retailers intend to arm in-store employees with mobile technology within the next three years. The goal is to make these employees more productive, valued resources for shoppers who need assistance.

With mobile technology in the hands of every worker, retailers can embrace a clienteling approach to customer service that uses mobile technology to pull up customer shopping profiles, check inventory both in-store and at nearby store locations, make product recommendations and many other services that expedite and improve the in-store shopping experience.

This approach to in-store device management will require comprehensive security to minimize the risk of employee actions creating vulnerabilities in the system. With an MMS in place, it’s easy to scale the system up or down in size, and shoppers can bring their devices into and out of the in-store environment throughout the working day without posing serious security risks to the company.

Securing mobile POS

Mobile point-of-sale (POS) solutions have been embraced at a slower rate in the retail world than some experts may have expected, but this technology is gradually making its way into the retail mainstream. According to Juniper Research, mobile POS revenue will grow from $6.6 billion in 2016 to a projected $50 billion by 2021. In many cases, the biggest challenge is ensuring a mobile POS system won’t increase security risks for the company, particularly where sensitive consumer data is concerned.

The best protection for this private information is to have the mobile POS system managed through an MMS. In addition to a wifi connection, mobile POS will likely integrate with other enterprise apps and technologies used within the store, which means a security breach in one part of the mobile environment could be used to gain access to the mobile POS. By managing this environment with an MMS, businesses can provide the most comprehensive level of security available, making mobile POS safer and more practical than ever before.

Physical stores are still appealing to shoppers, but they are increasingly less willing to compromise where the experience is concerned. As retailers seek out strategies to stay competitive in a complicated retail landscape, mobility is proving to make a key difference.