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Trending Toward Tablets

BY CSA STAFF

Today’s retail associates have more selling tools at their disposal than ever before — not the least of which is the increasingly popular tablet. The mobile device has taken not only front-of-house selling to new levels but has added efficiencies and enhanced employee productivity to back-of-house functions as well. Chain Store Age talked with Mike Stinson, VP marketing of Motion Computing, about the trend toward tablets.

What are some of the most prevalent uses of tablets in the retail environment?

The most obvious is assisted selling. For example, today’s customer may have a smartphone, will have done comparative shopping in advance of the store visit, and then will enter the store in search of a specific product. The tablet enables the associate to provide that customer with additional information and features.

How does the associate best utilize the tablet in that selling situation?

Imagine presenting that customer — via a media-rich tool with a 10-in. display — with product accessories, side-by-side comparisons, information about what inventory is in stock, what pricing specials might be in play, and what kinds of warranties or rebates are available. What’s more, the associate can swipe the customer’s loyalty card and see what additional value can be provided.

Do you have a real-life example of a tablet being utilized for selling?

We have a retail furnishings customer currently involved in a tablet pilot. Using the tablet means that retailers’ sales associates don’t have to abandon customers to retrieve catalog information from the backroom. An associate can remain with the customer, pull up additional information about, for instance, a couch she is looking at, show the different colors the couch comes in, show various cushion selections and display accompanying pieces such as end tables.

In this scenario, the likelihood of completing the sale goes up and the average ticket increases as well.

What is generating the most interest among retailers?

No question that it’s the mobile POS, whether for line busting or personalized transactions. A major wireless carrier is using the tablet in its stores to reduce wait time and increase sales floor efficiency. High-end department stores use the tablet to allow associates to follow the sale through to transaction completion without passing the customer to another employee. Again, this is expected to increase the average revenue per transaction, as well as the close rate for each employee.

How widespread do you think the use of tablets will become?

Our numbers are showing at least 70% of retailers are evaluating tablets for deployment right now. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, though. There are so many different work flows in a store — selling, managing, security and more — but my prediction is that there will be at least one flow in every store using a tablet within the next 18 months.

Compare the PC-based tablet with other operating systems on the market today.

The Windows-based tablets have the advantage in ease of integration and deployment because they are running existing operating systems and applications. Because other operating systems are targeted at consumers, they may seem more user-friendly. But they are generally optimized for media consumption and not for the data crunching and multi-processing required in a retail business environment.

What are the security issues with regard to mobile payment transactions?

There are three-day seminars on this topic. But the long and short of it is there is nothing really unique about a mobile tablet payment processing function versus taking payment at a fixed terminal. Retailers should look for devices that come with integrated security features, such as the Trusted Platform Module and MagTek or Merchant Link’s built-in encryption, which provide secure information management and enhanced data and business protection.

There are also many software solutions, such as Computrace from Absolute Software.

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B.Low says:
Jan-03-2013 05:12 am

Excellent post
Sant Ritz Sant Ritz is also near elite schools such as St. Andrew’s Secondary School and St. Andrew’s Junior College. Cedar Girls’ Secondary School and CedarPrimary School are also around in the area. For vehicle owners, it takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the business hub and vibrant Orchard Road shopping district, via Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Central Expressway (AYE).

B.Low says:
Jan-03-2013 05:12 am

Sant Ritz Sant Ritz is also near elite schools such as St. Andrew’s Secondary School and St. Andrew’s Junior College. Cedar Girls’ Secondary School and CedarPrimary School are also around in the area. For vehicle owners, it takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the business hub and vibrant Orchard Road shopping district, via Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Central Expressway (AYE).

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Mobility 101

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

While a Web presence is a prerequisite to doing business in the 21st century, the fact that 77% of consumers are now using tablet computers or smartphones to shop is forcing retailers to rethink their digital strategies, according to a survey from online price comparison engine PriceGrabber. Realizing this is not a decision to be taken lightly, retailers need to take steps to ensure that mobility can be an opportunity, and not a threat, to their business.

“There is a dramatic surge in mobile shopping,” said Graham Jones, general manager of Los Angeles-based PriceGrabber. “As smartphone and tablet computer usage becomes increasingly common, consumers embrace mobile as a go-to shopping platform since it can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime.”

The breadth of mobility moves far beyond simply allowing conducting purchasing transactions. Whether looking to more intimately connect with consumers, empower shoppers and store associates, or increase the speed of consumer interaction, mobility is clearly primed to revolutionize the retail experience.

Before chains can reap these and other benefits, however, they need to get their stores mobile-ready. Here are some basic steps to creating a successful mobile strategy:

• Establish a secure wireless network. Mobile devices, especially consumers’ personal units, are beacons for hackers. As such, retailers must be proactive to establish robust, secure wireless connections at store level. Attention should be paid to tokenization and PCI compliance to protect sensitive customer information and mobile payments moving between devices, retailer-specific apps and firewalls.

• Support multiple devices and operating systems. While iPhones are all the rage, they only comprised 28% of the market at the end of the third quarter of 2011, according to The Nielsen Company, New York City. Android’s operating system accounted for 43% of the market (an unprecedented jump from 9% in 2010), and 18% of smartphone users accessed a RIM BlackBerry operating system.

Chains must be mindful to ensure their mobile platform supports all hardware options. They also must deploy device-specific user interfaces and middleware that can detect online traffic patterns and the browsers that access retailers’ mobile sites.

• Integrate mobile into existing shopping channels. Consumers expect — and deserve — a consistent shopping experience regardless of the channel they visit or customer touch point they use. This factor will become mission critical as more chains adopt an omni-channel retailing strategy.

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Feb-20-2013 05:12 pm

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Feb-20-2013 05:12 pm

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Focus On: Business Intelligence

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The retail industry arguably collects more data than other business segments, and this volume doubles every 18 months, making the prospect of “big data” very real. By adopting mobile business intelligence apps, retailers are harnessing this robust data set and putting decision-making in the hands of its front line of defense — store-level associates.

Defining big data simply as large data volumes is an understatement. Big data is the result of information garnered from a variety of diverse sources, including transaction data, loyalty programs, even emerging sources, including consumer mobile transactions and social media interactions.

Indeed, as a recent study points out, retailers are increasing their strategic vision regarding customer insights. Customer retention was the top initiative among 68% of respondents, with 55% of retailers using analytics to delve into customer data mining, new customer acquisition and segmentation, specifically, according to “Retail Horizons, Benchmarks for 2011, Forecasts for 2012,” published by the National Retail Federation, Washington, D.C., and KPMG.

“Retailers without an active BI initiative won’t be around very long,” said Orlando “Butch” Jagoda, VP, IT, Helzberg Diamonds, Kansas City, Mo.

Jagoda said retail is a tough business, one that gives customers endless choices of where and how to buy merchandise — all factors pushing the envelope for retailers trying to manage big data. As a result, these robust data sets need equally robust analytics engines.

“Historically, data was transactional, and retailers used BI to understand trends,” Jagoda added. “As data sets and expectations increase, we need to add infrastructure that models and correlates endless data streams to help chains make decisions.”

While BI operations are often conducted at corporate offices, retailers’ front line staffers and store managers still need access to timely information to ensure they can best service the consumer when they enter the store. By adding mobility to the mix, retailers are giving store associates more selling power than ever before.

As more associates adopt mobile devices (smartphones, tablet computers, etc.) to improve the store-level shopping experience, chains have a new way to deliver reporting tools right to store associates’ fingertips. Armed with mobile BI apps, store managers can receive messages from the corporate-exception reporting tool, alerting them to fast- or slow-moving merchandise, allowing them to fine-tune assortments and displays on the fly.

BI is deeply rooted in Helzberg Diamonds’ DNA, and mobile is playing a stronger role. “Internally, mobile makes it easier for associates who travel, our store managers and all associates who need to be connected with business statistics,” Jagoda said. The goal: “to take the ‘dashboard’ to a form factor that’s easy for those who travel to get the same information,” he added.

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