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Mobile at the Speed of Retail

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Wed Jun 19 2013

Mobile at the Speed of Retail
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At $231 billion in 2012, [according to Forrester](http://www.forrester.com/US+Online+Retail+Forecast+2012+To+2017/fulltext/-/E-RES93281?docid=93281%20(username:%[email protected]), e-commerce already accounts for 8 percent of all retail sales in the United States. The good news is that retailers don't need to train the computers used in e-commerce transactions. The bad news is that e-commerce converts sales at rates magnitudes lower than a customer walking into a physical store.

Meanwhile, Gartner reports that 250 of the largest organizations spent 2.5 percent of their revenues on digital marketing in 2012, trying to maximize online sales through optimizing SEO, mobile and tablet app experiences, paid search, email marketing, social media and more. That total spend is expected to increase by 6 percent in 2013.

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It’s really easy for a consumer to access a retailer on a computer, yet, when a customer has invested their time and gas money to travel to the store, are retailers reciprocating by delivering an experience worthy of that investment? Not according to a recent American Express study, in which 32 percent of consumers felt businesses paid less attention to providing good customer service than the year prior. Are retailers doing enough effective training for their most effective selling channel? They are not likely spending 2.5 percent of their revenues on it.

Can they ever do enough training? The Speed of Retail refers to the pace at which products and fashion change. A static training program can likely address core sales and customer service fundamentals, but not the constant change in products and their applications. Updated marketing materials are always created to explain new products, but how does a retailer disseminate the information?

More challenging yet, how do they know the sales staff has read it? Do brands explain to sales associates how their products complement and work with other brands’ products in the store? Not likely. Are they going to explain that consumers get more value for their money when they spend a little more on a higher quality product to support the retailer’s profitability? Never.

Consider what happens the night after the Oscars when consumers want to look like Anne Hathaway or Kerry Washington? These are jobs that classic training cannot practically handle, but perhaps mobile solutions can tackle them efficiently and economically by providing performance support content when it’s needed.

Mobile offers a unique confluence of traits and capabilities that actually enable new training scenarios that were not realistically possible before.

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Mobile offers a unique confluence of traits and capabilities that actually enable new training scenarios that were not realistically possible before. It’s always on, always with you, and has a rich user interface. It’s connected: it knows where you are, it can see and hear, and it knows you. Mobile can be like the important notice posted in the break room, but one that can be updated daily, and tailored for each associate’s job and department.

With mobile options, retailers can deliver personalized content in real-time, when an associate needs it most: on-the-job. A 2012 retail study by Motorola found that almost 70 percent of consumers report they have a higher level of confidence when a retail sales associate is aided by the latest mobile device. So, consumers have a positive attitude when engaging with associates using mobile devices to aid a sale.

The ability to repeat key training messages and incorporate current events in content reinforce concepts and strengthen learning. By bringing the classroom to the employees, companies can economically deliver training updates to large, dispersed workforces every day. Mobile lessens the need to continually bring the associate to the classroom and can keep learning alive and fresh. When new employees arrive and have not had the opportunity to attend formal classroom or e-learning courses, they can still access key training content, everywhere.

But the opportunity is not limited to customer-facing roles. When a chemical product spill in aisle 5 requires attention, the bottle can be scanned to access OSHA-compliant cleanup directions. When stock people are setting up displays using new products, they can quickly review a photo of the display on their mobile phone, snap a photo of their own work, and send it for approval when they complete.

These examples only scratch the surface of the ways that mobile can be used for performance support in the retail space. Retail has delivered some great innovations on mobile to benefit the consumer, but the associate still signs into the point of sale or green screen terminal to access the time system or dig for useful information to aid a sale.

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The lines will blur between training and operations and sales and marketing and customer service, but the key is to get the information to the right person at the right place at the right time. Mobile is that real-time delivery channel, and it’s already in their hand.

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