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What’s Actually Happening In All My Retail Locations?

Guest blog by Ollie Benn

You’ve spent months on a new retail initiative or display concept.  You’ve piloted it in a few test locations and trained key staff.  Everything looks good and you begin the nationwide rollout.  But then sales numbers come in and they’re, well, lumpy.  And you don’t know why.  It’s not until months later you figure out that one regional manager conveyed the wrong instructions to store managers, another region had bad displays, and some individual store managers just messed things up.

The key for retailers (and suppliers) to address this problem is to understand how to shrink the distance between corporate headquarters and the front lines where sales take place.  There are some remarkably simple ways to increase store-by-store visibility and achieve more consistency in execution and sales.

The Solution Is Already In Workers’ Hands

Most Americans now own smartphones, the majority of which are iPhone and Android devices.  Whether companies have adopted a formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy or not, 90% of employees already use their personal smartphones for work, according to Cisco.

And companies are beginning to harness the power of those smartphones.  Banks, electronics companies and restaurants have found some interesting ways to use employees’ smartphones.

For retailers and suppliers, mobile devices are a way to literally “see” into every single store.  When rolling out new initiatives, or just managing day-to-day operations, workers’ smartphones can capture the photos, videos and data to give instant insight into how well each store is performing.  Some companies are already doing this to manage product and display installations in national chains.

But this is just part of two bigger themes for how workers’ mobile devices can radically improve performance:  (1) better information exchange between sales/operations executives (setting strategies) and managers in stores (implementing them); (2) better, more individualized, communication with employees.

Better Performance Through Better Information Exchange and Feedback

Research shows how high-performing companies ensure information flows well between workers, managers and headquarters.  In fact, it’s critical for good execution of corporate strategies.

In retail environments, smartphones and tablets can increase information flow from front-line workers to decision makers.  As discussed above, sales and operations execs can get reports and receive alerts when stores aren’t complying with directives.  They can then, in turn,  communicate with store managers and make adjustments and suggestions instantly.  Currently, most retailers will have little clue that something is amiss until after monthly or quarterly sales data is analyzed.   Instead of waiting for sales misses, correcting execution problems ahead of time can substantially increase profits.

In addition to allowing companies to better understand what’s happening in individual stores, smartphones allow feedback to go the other way too – enterprises can communicate to workers about how their choices have contributed to the company’s success. Performance-based feedback can have a great impact on the way an employee sees their role in a company, which can improve productivity and create a positive feedback loop.

Companies that adopt mobile enterprise solutions will create more consistent shopping experiences for consumers in all their locations.  This will produce more predictable revenue streams for companies caused by better, more uniform execution.

Ollie Benn is VP of Marketing for Zenput

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