Mobile devices in the hands of store associates were rapidly becoming an important part of the shopping experience even before the COVID-19 global pandemic. Now, they can make or break a retailer’s fight to win consumer trust, and in turn boost conversion and retention rates.
Associate mobile is powerful because of its versatility in tailoring the brand experience to the customer’s comfort level. For example:
- Associates can provide live streaming for customers who want to see products from their house
- Associates can offer contactless payment in-store
Associate mobile also enables these real-world scenarios:
- Customer A, wary of coming into the store, can place a digital or phone order, and an associate can use a mobile device to pick and pack the items. When the customer arrives at the curb, another associate can call up the order on his own device and deliver the purchase — or even place the item right into the customer’s trunk.
- Customer B is okay with coming inside the store but wants to get out fast. She can find the item, quickly check out via a nearby associate with a mobile device and avoid waiting in a queue.
- Customer C is looking for a more in-depth in-store experience. He can work with an associate to hear about personalised offers and accessories related to a past purchase — from a safe social distance — thanks to the associate’s mobile device.
In the COVID-19 era, placing a mobile device into the hands of every associate is the key to responding with agility to constantly changing market conditions and consumer demand. Retailers rate the top benefits of mobile as increased customer satisfaction (64%), improved employee education/training (53%), improved employee morale (42%) and increased upsells and cross-sells (34%).
How Mobile Delivers
Associate mobile enhances the customer experience on many fronts, satisfying “traditional” consumer desires such as speed, personalisation and access to information while also addressing newer concerns about a friction-free, low-touch and stress-free shopping experience:
Ensuring Safety: In addition to tailoring the shopping experience to the customer’s comfort level, mobile devices make both customers and employees feel safer, by reducing the need to use shared devices or come within close proximity of one another. For example, a store with several fixed registers at the front end often loses use of some of those points of sale when partitioning for social distancing. Mobile devices allow the retailer to scale up available checkout options to meet demand anywhere it’s needed while reducing contact and cash handling.
Expanding the Footprint: Unlike fixed devices, mobile devices can be carried anywhere there is demand for service. This includes outside the store, where associates can leverage mobile to manage queues, locate online orders and process transactions. Curbside pickup is typically permitted during tighter levels of stay-at-home restrictions and is key for enabling the retailer to continue operations, use up inventory, keep staff working and serve their communities, while lowering shipping costs and packaging usage. Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton are among retailers participating in shared curbside pickup services in the U.S. when the malls they operate in are closed.
Reducing Dwell Time: Mobile devices enable customers to check out faster (queue busting), reducing dwell times to increase safety and shorten lines also outside the store when density rules are in effect. Mobile devices also can be used to enable appointment setting to reduce crowding, with both the associate and customer using mobile to find one another for an individualised shopping experience. An impressive 76% of consumers say mobile – both self-service and associate-facing mobile – helps provide a faster shopping experience.
Enriching Communication: Retailers can boost loyalty and retention by leveraging mobile devices to deepen customer relationships. Via one-to-one communications, an associate can stay in contact with existing customers and even prioritise VIPs. Mobile also facilitates clienteling, remote sales, special orders and sharing of offers, information and business updates. Associate mobile makes consumers 78% more likely to buy.
Facilitating Omnichannel: Omnichannel demands that retailers be able to access all data across channels for a seamless customer experience. Mobile devices play an essential role in keeping that shared real-time inventory data up to date as well for processing orders such as fulfill-from-store, buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or delivery. Another variation of this is concierge shopping, a drive-up-and-order model popular for older and at-risk customers to increase conversions. Retailers capable of a full omnichannel experience enjoy a distinct advantage during COVID-19 restrictions. Mobile tools also work increasingly independently even in areas where the Wi-Fi is low, such as outside the store or in the back store. The tools register the information and synchronise the data as soon as it reaches Wi-Fi again
Contactless Transactions: Mobile devices combined with payment processes such as pay-by-link, scannable QR codes or contactless payment enable customers to quickly check out on the spot, without the need to touch a payment device. A Mastercard global consumer study found nearly eight in 10 use contactless payments.
Mobile As An Essential Business Tool
As retail stores reopen, the race is on to coax customers back with services and channels that make them feel safe, supported and ready to shop. Driving up conversions and retention will be top priorities to rebuild business and boost the bottom line.
Mobile is an essential facilitator of this process. When retail must be available anywhere, anytime, associates do, too. A mobile device in every associate’s hands empowers them to quickly pivot to whatever actions are needed to respond to customer expectations and new operational rules, giving retailers the flexibility to operate however market conditions require.