By Martin Howarth, Retail Sector Development at GCI
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of hearing presentations from a number of Retail CEOs. One consistent theme in all of their seminars was the notion of how important staff morale was to the organisation. Of course, this isn’t a great surprise – from a business perspective a happy workforce is a productive workforce – but it did get me thinking about the role Sales Assistants play and the probability that they will be called upon to embrace multiple technical advancements in the near future.
The Barriers and Benefits of the “Connected Sales Assistant”
How many organisations insist that personal smart phones are “left in the locker”? It’s an understandable demand considering the possibility of staff spending their time chatting to their friends via social media when they should be attending to customers. However, herein could lie the dilemma; with the advent of customer-personalised content and push technology from the likes of Aruba, the customer is likely to have more up-to-date information than the Sales Assistant. So do you invest in new technology for staff or let them use their own devices to have access to internal applications?
The technology is out there to allow the above to be implemented securely via the likes of the aforementioned Aruba ClearPass, which combines contextual policy management with next-generation authentication, authorisation and audit, plus BYOD and device assessment services to provide all the robust security of a wired network in a wireless environment. You also have Enterprise + Mobility Security (EMS) from Microsoft – a fully-managed service that GCI launched just yesterday – which allows IT Managers to easily wipe corporate data off the Sales Assistant’s device if it is lost or stolen, helping ensure that sensitive information remains protected.
As new technologies emerge, they also give rise to increased automation in the shopping process. A July 2016 McKinsey article estimates that 53% of retail activities are automatable, depending on the sector. While automation may take over the more black-and-white transactional processes, the store associates that remain in the retail space can command a bigger part of the shopping experience.
On the productivity side, Sales Assistants can use their personal devices to gain extra minutes to accomplish work tasks the moment they receive them. The Financial Impact of BYOD study found that the average BYOD user saves 37 minutes per week when using their own device. BYOD users in the USA ranked the highest, saving on average 81 minutes per week! For retailers with a large number of associates the regained minutes can quickly add up, translating into improved customer service that results in increased sales and improved staff morale, as they feel more empowered in their role and they can do it more efficiently.
Being able to provide consumers with the experience that meets their known and unknown needs is something that Sales Assistants can provide, given that they have the necessary resources to help them. My personal view is that we will see more and more staff using their personal devices to access corporate applications. This isn’t new; Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been on the table for several years, but it hasn’t had a high-level impact in the Retail sector (unless you were Senior or Middle Management). But in our Cloud-first, mobile-first world the possibilities for harnessing AI, BYOD and Big Data are endless, and may soon herald to the rise of “Smart Shops” or “Connected Sales Assistants”.
At GCI, we can help you discover how your organisation can use business mobility solutions to gain a competitive advantage. On the 31st October and the 1st November, we’ll be at Microsoft’s Future Decoded as Headline Sponsors – come and talk to us about the benefits of your business embracing an all-in, secure BYOD strategy.
Haven’t registered for Future Decoded? Sign up here: www.futuredecoded.com/content/tickets
Martin Howarth is responsible for Retail Sector Development at GCI.
He has worked across a number of verticals, holding extensive experience in Networks, IT Services, Managed Applications, Security, Data Centres and Cloud Services. As well as having an established Sales career, Martin also holds a degree in Engineering from Coventry University.