The ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) trend has exploded over the past few years, and infiltrated every business sector – even retail. Whether happy to adopt the trend or not, retailers will have found their staff using the functionality of their personal smartphones to help aid their roles as front line sales staff.
As tablets, online shopping and ‘self-service’ begin to monopolize the retail experience, traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers have not had an easy ride. It’s not enough to simply offer a product online. Rather, it all boils down to customer service and experience, and pleasing the customer no matter where they prefer to make a purchase.
With this in mind, front line sales staff need to be provided with the tools necessary to handle all customer inquiries and have inventory information at their fingertips. If staff is not equipped with appropriate tools, they will take matters into their own hands wherever possible. This is where BYOD comes into play.
However, with the use of personal devices come many issues around durability, security and productivity, which can subsequently impact customer service. Although BYOD is a hot trend, and at first glance, may appear to provide efficiency gains, it is not right for all business sectors. Retail is one of them.
Challenges of BYOD in Retail
For retailers willing to let employees select or bring their own devices, the IT department has to deal with a range of systems, products and platforms. While sales staff may find increased satisfaction, IT teams have to deal with the complicated, if not impossible task, of maintaining and integrating these devices.
Unsurprisingly, security is one of the top concerns when it comes to using mobile devices to access sensitive company data. Smartphones are designed to access and share data in the cloud, increasing the potential for data to be duplicated and moved between applications.
While mobile devices can enable productivity, used incorrectly they can also hinder it. The personal use of mobile devices at work can create disruptive situations. Sales staff are more likely to get distracted, taking attention away from the task at hand and reducing overall productivity and the level of service delivered to the customer.
Additionally, problems like insufficient battery life can lead to costly and potentially dangerous delays due to missed communications. Smartphones often suffer from poor battery life, leaving them unsuitable for long working days or use across shifts. Similarly, consumer devices lack the durability required in a fast-paced retail environment. Impact and dropped devices can easily damage devices not equipped to cope.
Guaranteed voice quality is another issue that must be addressed. Retailers’ sites are massive, with storerooms, elevators, basements and stairwells. It’s essential that within these areas, ‘dead zones’ or decreased voice communication quality, aren’t encountered.
Alternatives to BYOD
Retailers can combat BYOD challenges through the implementation of purpose-built mobile communication devices. Because they are designed with retail in mind, these devices offer the benefits of a more mobile sales staff, but alleviate specific fundamental shortfalls of smartphones.
Security concerns are eliminated because purpose-built devices only operate over the confines of a retail store’s Wi-Fi network, preventing costs from spiralling due to loss, theft or extra security measures. The challenge of loss of battery life is also addressed through the ability to swap batteries at the beginning of a shift, with guaranteed continued life through to the next.
They also negate the need for further precautions for durability as they are built to withstand challenging environments and can handle multiple drops even onto concrete floors. Furthermore, high voice quality is guaranteed across the entire site over a wi-fi network, including areas such as basements where traditional network providers may not reach.
The retail sector requires innovations that can assist in establishing competitive advantage and maintaining a profitable operation. However, allowing sales staff to bring their own devices does not fulfill this requirement. Front line sales staff require instant access to pricing, offers and stock information at their fingertips, allowing them to remain on the shop floor. This enables them to serve customers faster and better, increasing sales and customer satisfaction in one fell swoop.
Though BYOD is the hot topic of the moment, the retail segment should consider purpose-built mobile handsets instead. They are specifically designed with retailers in mind for optimum efficiencies and longevity to work smarter, not harder.
Mike Lanciloti is VP, Global Marketing & Product Management for Spectralink