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Five Retailer Benefits from Shifting Paper Forms to Mobile Apps

BY CSA STAFF

By Jason Peck, Director of Marketing, Canvas

Business adoption of new technologies often flows from their personal use. This certainly applies to mobile apps and devices. The ability to download an app in seconds, share photos and data via the cloud in real-time, and communicate from any location at any time have evolved from “nice to have” to “need to have.”

These consumer-grade technology expectations are just beginning to spill over to the business world. Yet, despite increased adoption of mobile devices and technologies, paper forms are burying many retailers and distribution firms. Consider that the average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper each year, which means that at an estimated cost of $40 per case of paper, businesses are spending $80 annually on paper per worker. Furthermore, it takes 18 minutes on average to find a paper document, and a whopping 70% of businesses would fail in three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of paper due to a fire or flood.

Getting from paper forms to mobile apps is not without challenges, such as a fear that developing a custom mobile app will prove costly and time-intensive. With custom mobile app development often costing more than $50,000 and three months of IT time and resources, this fear has merit. Other concerns include maintaining control and security of customer and business data, and introducing new processes.

But today, mobile business apps are accessible to retailers of any size due to the benefits and economics of the cloud and do-it-yourself app builder tools that eliminate traditional costs associated with custom app development, reduce the need for internal IT and development resources, and speed deployment across your workforce.

As a result, your business can experience five key benefits that a cloud-based mobile app solution delivers.

1. Mobile time cards enhance workforce visibility

Businesses with mobile workforces often struggle to see in real-time what workers are doing. Paper forms compound this problem because it can often be several hours or even days before a mobile worker returns to the office, files paperwork and enters data into your system.

Cloud-based mobile apps provide greater visibility into workforce productivity in several ways. By creating a time card mobile app, businesses can have time automatically entered to ensure accuracy, and that information can be sent in real-time via the cloud to the office. Greater accuracy means fewer issues, and allow you to spend less time tracking employees and more tracking actual work performance.

2. Mobile work orders improve workforce productivity

For retailers with field workers, tracking employee productivity can be cumbersome and time-consuming with paper work orders that can also be hard to read, inconsistently returned to the office, lost or damaged, and impossible to get in real time. At a more granular level, fields often aren’t filled in fully or correctly, and pricing is entered or calculated incorrectly.

The result? Your sales cycle grinds to a halt. Mobile work orders create a system that’s reliable, accurate, and accessible in real time. Companies are able to use time and date stamps to accurately show when a job occurred, while built-in GPS capabilities can confirm a worker was at a job site or customer location.

3. Mobile GPS capabilities streamline vehicle routing

A cloud-based mobile app can also improve routing efficiency as you dispatch workers to job sites and customer locations. With GPS location capture, business owners can visualize routes on a map, consolidate two routes into one, or even calculate date and time. A light dispatch service also allows companies to send delivery information to remote or field workers, and a careful review of routes can save hundreds of gallons of gas, as well as wear and tear on vehicles.

4. Mobile inspections improve quality control

For retailers charged with conducting quality control, safety and compliance inspections at store locations, paper forms introduce several vulnerabilities and inefficiencies. Workers could report inspecting a location they never visited, and workers must rewrite the same information over and over, use expensive carbon copies that are hard to read and easily lost, and are limited to text-only data.

Mobile inspection apps allow your business to build in time and date stamps – as well as GPS location – to ensure inspections are being done correctly and in accordance with company and industry regulations. Mobile inspection apps also allow for multimedia to more easily report complicated issues and provide visual proof of issues. Time and date stamps as well as GPS location ensure accurate, effective inspections.

5. Mobile apps transform data collection and storage

Integrating mobility into core applications places a premium on effective data collection that can be easily stored and shared across the organization. With mobile data collection capabilities, employees can fill out information anywhere and have that data stored securely in the cloud, a huge cost savings driver as each four-drawer filing cabinet costs a firm $1,500 annually. By using Application Program Interfaces (APIs), businesses can easily integrate data collected via mobile apps with internal systems such as Salesforce and Quickbooks. Finally, with mobile data collection capabilities, businesses can collect an expanded set of information beyond text through image capture, barcode scanning, e-signatures and GPS.


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LED Luminaires Solve Three Common Retail Lighting Challenges

BY CSA STAFF

By Ryan Ramaker, Acuity Brands

LED lighting is a growing trend in buildings today and with very good reason. It delivers significant energy savings compared to traditional light sources, and the illumination, lifespan and color qualities of LEDs continue to impress.

But there are also additional benefits that are often overlooked. Quality LED illumination can help retailers solve some of the most common retail lighting problems. Here are the top three:

1. Changing lamps in high ceilings: High ceilings – often 10-ft. or higher – have become more common in many retail spaces. With ceiling heights on the rise, there is never a convenient time to pull out a ladder and replace a lamp. Traditional bulbs can burn out frequently in common areas and many retailers may not have a ladder high enough on site to reach and change out the lighting in their stores, which may mean lighting is out when customers are in the store.

It’s for this reason that high ceilings are a prime location for LED lighting. Delivering as much as 50,000 hours of continuous light output, quality LED luminaires can last for years without worry — reducing the time, hassle and inconvenience of changing light bulbs.

2. Maintaining proper outdoor lighting for security: In a not uncommon scene with traditional luminaires, beautiful outdoor or pathway lighting is often spoiled by a burned out, dimmed or flickering bulb. Or even worse, the floodlights and perimeter lighting installed for customer security is out, resulting in complaints. Often times, the lighting in a retailer’s outdoor space stays on all night, 365 days a year. Whether lighting pedestrian walkways or parking areas, this outdoor illumination is important for both aesthetics and the safety of shoppers.

LED lighting is an excellent solution for outdoor spaces because its long-lifespan of 10 or more years provides facility managers assurance that the lighting will be long-lasting and reliable. Crisp, white LED light can revive dark or poorly lit areas to improve visibility and safety. And LED luminaires do not lose their lumen output over time like traditional fixtures, thus ensuring overall uniformity.

By adding controls, such as motion and dusk-to-dawn sensors, energy usage can be reduced or automatically dimmed when there is no activity or natural light becomes present. This saves on energy costs, reduces labor costs and extends the life of the fixtures — helping property managers keep outdoor areas well-lit.

3. The challenge of 24/7 lighting applications: Because many areas in retail facilities require constant illumination, lighting can be not only a big expense, but a hefty task to maintain as well.

LED lighting offers a host of benefits making it perfect for solving the challenges of 24/7 applications. While quality illumination and energy savings alone make LED lighting an ideal choice, many LED fixtures are commercial-rated for 24/7 operations. LED fixture options such as flush mounts, wall mounts and recessed lights — many requiring no bulb to change — marry LED technology and versatile designs to deliver years of worry-free performance and peace of mind.

Additionally, the use of AC-driven LED boards eliminate “buzz” and flickering to provide an even more comfortable and attractive lighting experience. For switch-operated spaces like hallways and closets, LED lighting is instant-on and the life is not affected by constant switching from off to on as it is with incandescent sources.

While every facility is different, LED lighting can solve common challenges in retail developments. Options are available in many styles and fixture-types that fuse high performance LED technology with pleasing aesthetics to help reduce energy costs, decrease maintenance time and help increase safety and security.

Ryan Ramaker is a product development manager at Acuity Brands specializing in bringing new and innovative LED lighting products to market for use in residential, light commercial, hospitality, retail and multi-family solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Crumbs Bake Shops shutters all stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Crumbs Bake Shops on Monday closed its 48 stores. The cupcake store chain has been struggling for some time. In a May filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it warned that it "may be forced to curtail or cease its activities" if its operations didn’t generate enough cash flow.

Last week, Nasdaq suspended the trading of Crumbs shares on the grounds that the company no longer had at least $2.5 million in shareholder equity, or met benchmarks for an annual net profit.

"Regrettably Crumbs has been forced to cease operations and is immediately attending to the dislocation of its devoted employees while it evaluates its limited remaining options," the company said in a statement posted by The Wall Street Journal.

Crumbs was founded in 2003 and went public in 2011. For the three months ending March 31, it reported a loss of $3.8 million, compared to a loss of $2 million from the same period a year ago.

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