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Study: Most retail associates will use mobile solutions within three years

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

More retailers are putting mobile devices into their associates’ hands.

Momentum is so strong that within three years, 89% of retailers will give their associates access to mobile solutions, according to “The Mobile World of Retail,” a report from Boston Retail Partners. BRP surveyed the top North American retailers to explore the current state of how mobile technology is shaping retail capabilities, priorities and processes.

As the proliferation of tablets and mobile phones creates new opportunities for retailers to enhance customer service, there are five key areas that retailers are focusing on: customer identification, customer engagement, associate training and task management, mobile point-of-sale (POS) and mobile payments.

Identifying the customer and then delivering a personalized experience is a top priority among 70% of respondents. Connecting with shoppers at the first stages of their journey enables store associates to leverage real-time visibility to inventory, purchase history and loyalty program activity — the foundation needed to make personalized recommendations. Mobile technology also engages shoppers prior to checkout, sometimes even before they enter the store, enabling associates to assist and influence purchase decisions.

Meanwhile, 31% of retailers plan to implement mobile tools for customer engagement within the next 12 months. This adoption is driven by several factors, including the declining price of mobile technology, the growth in maturity and range of tools, and the critical need for store associates to have the necessary tools to enhance the customer experience.

When it comes to associate training and task management, 89% of retailers plan to offer mobile solutions to associates within three years. The accelerated use of associate-facing and customer-facing mobile services, such as product information, floor sets, planograms, shopping list capabilities, and personalized recommendations, will drive significant growth in mobile technology over the next few years.

More retailers are also eager to bring the checkout process to the customer at the moment she makes her purchasing decision. Within two years, the use of tablets, hybrid POS terminals and mobile devices will increase tremendously, along with a slight decrease in the use of traditional POS terminals. And by 2020, 84% of retailers will utilize mobile POS in their stores — a move that will simplify the buying process for the consumer and maximize revenue opportunities for the retailer, the study said.

Part in parcel with mobile POS, mobile payment acceptance is increasing rapidly. While adoption had generally been slow, this year there was a big jump in adoption among popular mobile payment options, including Apple Pay (36%), PayPal (34%), MasterCard PayPass (25%) and Android Pay (24%), among others.

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