Enable Smarter and More-Connected Retail Operations

Becky Lawlor
Retail associate looking up inventory on tablet

Have you ever gone to a store only to discover that they don’t have the size you need or the item you want? You then ask the sales associate if they have the item in the back or on order. In response, the employee simply shrugs and says, “I don’t know. They never tell us when we’re getting a shipment in.”

Now let’s re-imagine this same experience. Except this time, when you ask the store associate if they have the item you want, she pulls out her mobile device, taps the screen once or twice, and tells you, “Sorry, we don’t have any in the back; but, it looks like our delivery truck is only five minutes away. So if you have other shopping to do and want to swing back by in 10 minutes, I’ll have the item available for you.”

Which experience do you prefer? And which one do you think your customers prefer? Naturally, the one where you get answers in real time, and the store associate is empowered with detailed information about every aspect of the store’s operations.

Building these types of connected experiences—where your retail operations are connected all the way from your supply chain to the front of the house—can enable a smarter and more-connected physical store and workforce—and ultimately, deliver a better customer experience.

Enabling a Smarter, More-Connected Physical Store

Providing these types of hyper-aware experiences—where your employees have every detail of your retail operations at their fingertips—requires connectivity between all your retail operations and touchpoints, including your:

  • Supply chain
  • Partners 
  • Call centers 
  • Distribution centers 
  • Sales floor

It also requires a long-term vision of what you want your retail operations and the customer experience to look like. Traditionally, retailers have focused on the guest experience as one aspect and business operations as another. However, with this approach, when you implement a new technology initiative, you’re generally only looking at one part of your operations, such as improving your mobile communication platform or your scanning accuracy. 

When IT projects are approached individually rather than with a long-term vision, you miss the opportunity to connect your retail infrastructure together in ways that enable a smarter, more-connected physical store. And, you miss the opportunity to deliver the kind of connected customer experience described earlier.

“It may sound complicated in the short run,” says Brian Gallagher, Retail Strategy and Business Development Director at Connection, “but in the long run, taking a holistic approach and not piecemealing the technology together is where retailers are going to get the biggest benefit.”

Furthermore, a holistic approach goes beyond the customer experience to improving your employees’ experience as well.

Enabling a Smarter, More-Connected Workforce 

Employees also gain numerous benefits when there is connectivity across all retail operation touchpoints. They can be more productive because answers are at their fingertips, in near real time.

Additionally, this type of connected solution, which relies on edge computing, minimizes the number of systems in use and simplifies communications. Because the solution is installed over mobile connection points, it can seamlessly switch from Wi-Fi to radio waves, depending on what’s available in the environment. This setup improves employee productivity and improves experience using the technology, because any switching of communication systems is automatic.

Finally, having a fully integrated retail operations solution that your employees can tap into via a mobile device also allows them to better serve customers and other employees.

“If you just invest in mobile headsets, for example, your employees may be able to ping someone to get a piece of information, but it doesn’t provide the full picture, and now that employee is stuck. They either have to ask more questions or give a bad answer to the customer or employee in front of them,” says Gallagher. “But when you combine mobile and compute at the edge, information is live, and you get smarter employees and a better experience for everyone.”

Using the Power of Partnerships to Deliver Full Connectivity

To power this kind of fully connected retail experience, partnerships between the right vendors are especially crucial—as partnerships bring an expertise that no individual organization can offer on their own. 

What makes a partnership like the one between Connection and its mobile device partners so valuable is that each vendor brings a critical component to the overall solution. For instance, Connection’s industry-leading network partners can understand which devices and applications are most critical to optimize the experience—and then prioritize the specific applications and devices to ensure their connection and speed are always optimized. This allows devices throughout the supply chain to always have the most accurate information.

Similarly, by working with mobile device partners with expertise in building enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions, Connection can provide mobile computing devices and software to help the workforce stay connected and improve the customer experience.

This multi-vendor partnership also offers other unique advantages, such as the ability to:

  • Bring together best-of-breed network edge solutions
  • Mutually certify products for interoperability purposes
  • Innovate for better user experiences with performance enhancements and new features
  • Collaborate on joint opportunities to aid in customer needs
  • Provide priority support escalation between technical teams

From small retail stores to the mega-enterprise, retailers have been taking advantage of the kinds of connected solutions Connection can offer through its strong partnerships. And, it’s enabled these retailers to keep pace with the extreme transformational speed of technology today.

Give Your Retail Business an Edge

Customers expect seamless omnichannel experiences—where data flows across mobile, Web, and brick-and-mortar stores—so that their interactions with retailers can be as convenient and personalized as possible. By adding edge computing technology that allows for data to flow not just across customer channels, but across all retail operations that impact the customer experience, the result is an even more-connected and exceptionally delightful experience for your customers.

Taking a long-term, strategic, and holistic approach to your retail infrastructure and investing in connecting your network at the edge will give you a strong return on investment. You’ll see improvements in key metrics, like workforce productivity, better employee-to-employee communication, and smoother supply chain operations. But most importantly, you’ll be able to deliver a better customer experience by instantly answering their questions.

For more information about smarter, more-connected retail operations, reach out to Connection today!

Becky Lawlor has been covering the convergence of business and technology for over a decade. Her writing focuses on emerging trends in big data, IoT, AI, mobility, cyber security, cloud computing, and more. She especially enjoys examining how these technologies are impacting critical business and public sectors such as healthcare, education, government, and retail. You can find more of her writing and insights on Twitter @lawlor_becky.