The growing world of mobile-first computing can be both exciting and intimidating. As a successful retailer, you want to be responsive to your customers’ needs, but it can be difficult to figure out how to use this new technology for that purpose. Here are four ways that mobile technology can help improve your bottom line, and make for happier customers and a happier retailer.
Identify and collect important data. The benefits of what’s called big data were once only available to big companies with deep pockets. Thanks to a thriving mobile business app ecosystem, that’s no longer true. Whether your phone or tablet runs on Android or iOS, you can find an app to help take the guesswork out of things like inventory, scheduling, store inspections, energy usage, and even health and safety issues. The key is finding an app or, better, a platform with many interoperable apps (one is not going to do everything you need all by itself) that best suits your businesses overall needs. While what’s right for you may not be right for the store next to you, you both want apps that will help you identify what, out of the torrent of information available, is most important for you. Start with something that will give you the “big picture” so you can zero in on the data points that are most meaningful to your business. For instance, maybe you’re on top of the inventory and always have just what you need when you need it, but you’ve had trouble identifying why your electric bill has been so high. Find the right app to track your electric usage, and you’ll realize the bill is only high during hot months and even higher on days when the temperature spikes. Now you know you may have an air conditioning system that needs a checkup. This could save thousands of dollars in unnecessary energy costs.
Save and search data. The cloud will change your life. Have you ever misfiled delivery receipts, employee time cards, or other information or had a computer crash, taking all that information away? Even if you’ve never had either of those happen, they certainly could. To eliminate this possibility, find an app that can take information traditionally captured with a pen and clipboard and back it up in the cloud with either real-time or frequent updates. Most reputable cloud offerings have several redundant backups, search capabilities and robust data security built-in so you never need to worry about losing track of and spend hours finding that all-important information again. This will give you peace of mind and insurance against having to spend hours collecting information all over again — instead of selling, merchandising and performing other revenue-generating activities.
Access and share data across locations. No, really, it will change your life. If you have multiple locations, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on at each store. Even if you have a central database, chances are the information in it still has to be collected, imported and uploaded manually by someone. How many employee hours would it save to automate that process? Find an app that turns the data entry chore that everyone dreads into a process that flows automatically, sending data directly to the cloud for safekeeping. This also gives you the ability to remotely visit and monitor all of your locations. Not only that, you should be able to share that information with managers and employees remotely and in real time, too. For example, Manager of store three may be seeing a sharp rise in sales of a certain product, which can be immediately shared with other locations so they can stock up on that product too.
Gain Insights from your data.All of the information in the world won’t help you if you can’t understand it. That seems to be one reason why many retailers and other small to medium-sized businesses are hesitant to take advantage of new technology. Don’t let the initial confusion stop you. Find an app with a simple user interface that lays things out in a manner that makes the data most digestible for you. When you have access to data that you can understand, you can begin to identify trends in what your customers are or are not buying, and pivot where needed rather than relying solely on your instinct. You can also unravel mysteries like the electric bill example above. Big data, and especially mobile data, can help on both the front end and the back end to save you money and help bring in more revenue.
Mobile technology is a fact of life that’s not going away. Smart retailers are and will use this to their advantage while others fall behind. Use the advantages mobile technology provides and you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.
Article originally posted on Retail Customer Experience.