Recent announcements that Apple will partner with IBM to release more than 100 mobile iOS applications tailored to work with IBM’s data analytics and cloud services, and that Microsoft will focus on digital work innovation in its smartphone segment, serve as reminders that mobile devices are continuing to evolve. Increasingly, mobile devices are offering features that make it easier for retailers to position advanced computational and analytical power at the point of customer contact. Here are three ways upcoming changes in the capabilities of mobile devices will affect retail.
1. The Store Gains Importance
In recent years, retailers have realized that most profits are still generated in brick-and-mortar stores and that omnichannel strategies must have a solid physical foundation. However, the emergence of new mobile analytical and business intelligence capabilities will only make the store even more important. By providing store associates easy, app-based access to deep analytics, mobile devices will allow targeted upselling and cross-selling at a more individualized, time-, product- and location-sensitive level. Also, real-time targeted offers could take current, chainwide, SKU-level sales patterns into account, allowing retailers to better move overpriced merchandise before margin-eroding markdowns and clearances become necessary.
All this will increase sales volume and customer satisfaction at the store, meaning the store’s role in broader omnichannel strategies will also increase.
2. Analysis Becomes Easier
Higher-level employees in the IT and merchandising departments may not like hearing this, but mobile devices loaded with apps that perform complex analytical and business intelligence tasks will make analysis easier, and thus their jobs more expendable. Naturally, a store associate with an app cannot fully replace more skilled (and better compensated) IT and merchandising experts when it comes to crunching data and discovering actionable insights.
But they can reduce the organization’s reliance on experts to pull out and leverage the actionable insights in a timely, targeted manner. It’s not an accident that advanced IT and analytical functionality is moving toward mobile devices, which younger (and cheaper) employees have grown up using and intuitively understand how to operate.
3. The Internet Gets Bigger
The reach of the Internet in retail keeps growing as more devices and even objects and articles of clothing become Web-enabled. We are entering an era some are calling “Web 3.0” or the “Internet of Things.” However, the kind of capabilities that mobile devices will soon deliver will make the scope of the Internet even bigger.
Rather than merely extending the reach of the Web as a tool for sending and receiving data, advanced mobile analytics will extend the reach of the Web as a tool for analyzing data and utilizing it for improved decision-making, merchandising and CRM.
For the first time, the full knowledge potential of the Internet will be accessible across the organization and during real-time customer interactions, with minimal technical skill required. This development, rather than something like refrigerators that automatically reorder milk, may prove to be the most important and beneficial extension of the size and reach of the Internet for retail.