Mobile Solutions Help Reengineer Service

Mark Self is VP, retail industry solutions group, of Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Business, Holtsville, N.Y., mark.self@symbol.com .

Whether they are shopping for weekly groceries or a spring wardrobe, shoppers are attracted to retailers that use innovative services to deliver an efficient and unique shopping experience.

Mark Self, VP, retail industry solutions group, for Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Business, Holtsville, N.Y. (formerly Symbol Technologies), educated Chain Store Age senior editor, Deena M. Amato-McCoy, about how chains are satisfying this need by adding mobile self-service solutions.

Chain Store Age: What is pushing retailers to implement self-service customer solutions?

Mark Self: Many retailers are beginning to focus on enhancing the customer experience. One trend that is pushing this is the concept of advanced point of sale or the endless aisle. These solutions enable retailers to tender a transaction anywhere in store—at the point of decision vs. the POS. It is also pushing chains to rethink how they run the store, and how they deliver customer service.

CSA: Are mobile solutions necessities, or just “nice to have”?

Self: They are a priority across different retail segments. POS will always be there, but retailers are rethinking how to reengineer the front of their stores. Whether it is a multilane supermarket or a department store that has registers dispersed throughout the store, their goal is the same: to utilize real-estate differently and make the associate flexible enough to service customers anywhere in store.

For example, a department store that anchors a mall could have between 20 and 50 POS units throughout the store. To enhance customer service, the store should consider converting 10% of the stands to mobile solutions to run mobile POS, especially in higher-end departments, as well as other applications, like gift registry.

Similarly, supermarkets can consider a personal shopping device that enables consumers to walk through the store and scan as they go. It helps shoppers track their purchases and finally, get out the door faster.

Many restaurants are already moving in this direction by using hand-held units to tender bills and provide receipts at the dinner table. Similar applications also are popping up on trains and planes.

CSA: Do internal and telecommunications infrastructure play a role in the evolution of these solutions?

Self: They do, especially as mobile payments evolve. A couple of factors will further push the need for secure, reliable networks.

By the end of 2007, PCI (payment-card industry) data-security standards compliance will be mandatory. Retailers will need a platform to support this change.

And as companies become global and look to mobile solutions, they need a platform they can install across multiple geographic locations. This is an opportunity for Motorola.

CSA: What role do self-service solutions play for retailers today?

Self: This depends on the specific device and how it is applied across different parts of the business. For example, typically supermarkets deploy personal-shopping devices as a consumer-driven self-scanning and payment solution. By adding a queue-busting application to the unit, chains can link POS functionality, tender the shopper’s transaction and speed up the checkout experience.

CSA: What does the future of these solutions look like? What do retailers need to do to prepare?

Self: The key challenge is not necessarily thinking about the technology. The decision needs to be based on how the solution can improve operations.

One of our retail customers, for example, had an urgent desire to make its store managers more productive and visible. Like most retailers however, managers’ responsibilities often keep them sequestered in the back room tethered to their desk.

This retailer began experimenting with a handheld unit that made the manager’s tasks more mobile. Now the manager is more visible on the selling floor and helps to increase store performance and productivity.

Success needs to be based on operational change. Sure, infrastructure is important. But if a retailer cannot operationalize the solution effectively, they should not even consider it. They will not be able to achieve a full return on investment.