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Three Ways Expanding Capabilities in Mobile Devices Will Impact Retail

BY Dan Berthiaume

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.


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Report: Market Basket fires employees after inventory problems

BY Dan Berthiaume

Tewksbury, Mass. – Demoulas Super Markets Inc., parent company of the Market Basket grocery chain, has reportedly fired some employees in the wake of inventory problems during the weekend of July 19-20. According to the Boston Globe, several managers were fired the evening of Sunday, July 20 after the company noticed thinning inventories of perishable items.

Employees of Demoulas’ Market Basket chain had threatened to stage a walkout on July 18 in protest of the removal of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas in June, but instead held a rally at corporate headquarters. Most of the company’s warehouse workers and drivers attended the rally and said they would refuse to return to work until Demoulas was reinstated. Demoulas has been using replacement drivers, but it is unclear whether any lower-level warehouse employees or drivers have been fired.

In an open letter to employees, new co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch said they will bring employee concerns to the Demoulas board of directors but cannot make any decision to rehire Demoulas. The letter also said that any employee who leaves their job or refuses to work a scheduled shift will be fired, meaning some participants could potentially lose their jobs.

Seventeen Massachusetts lawmakers, including state Attorney General and Democrative gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, have publicly expressed support for the workers. Arthur T. Demoulas had been waging a public battle with his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, a stakeholder and director of the company, about finances when he was fired in June. He remains a company shareholder.

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ARTS releases compliance audit specification

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), the standards and technology division of the National Retail Federation (NRF), has released the Compliance Audit Interchange. The CAI is a specification that allows organizations to share compliance audit results securely with other companies who source from the same supplier location.

Included in the standard is a set of defined XML standard messages to enable brands and retailers to track and to communicate with their manufacturers and other supply chain intermediates about compliance with human rights, environmental and supply chain security issues. It also defines the means where brands, retailers and audit companies can confidentially and securely exchange audit information with other companies and external databases. Technical reports offering in-depth discussions of the compliance audit landscape and the need for standards, as well as a design specification for the registry itself, are also included.

ARTS and FFC were supported in this project by retailers, brands, suppliers and multi-stakeholder organizations, such as Nike, Adidas, El Corte Inglés, Cisco, Enablon, Intertek, SIM Supply Chain Information Management, the Fair Labor Association, SEDEX, BSCI, GS1, GSCP and SIF.

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