The Retail Fashion Accessory

23rd August 18

Over the last few years, there has been a drive to equip store colleagues with tablets, or similar, to help drive selling across channels. It seemed to be the fashion to see tablets strapped to a colleague’s hand or slung over their should on a strap. But it doesn’t always work as planned and, during my travels (I visit a lot of stores for work and for fun), so far I have seen:

  • Numerous tablets in the back of the house that are broken or not charged up
  • Tablets that don’t hold their charge and become useless
  • Corporate videos showing on a tablet which was placed on a fixture at the front of a store – and they need a person to stay with it to prevent theft
  • Tech that can’t connect to the store’s WiFi
  • And once, on a store visit, I asked where the store tablet was, only to be told that it’d been sold!!

The one thing I rarely see is it actually being used with a customer! So why is it such a challenge to get this significant initial and ongoing investment right? I think it is a combination of the following:

  • At their worst, the introduction of tablets was a knee-jerk response to a desire to create multi-channel integration without considering how it fits with the brand service proposition and customer journey
  • Colleagues may have been trained on the physical devices but not the softer skills of how to engage customers who cannot find the product/s they want and how to offer access to inventory to reduce lost sales
  • Are colleagues motivated to sell via the tablet if the sales are not attributed to their store sales or bonus? What is the incentive at a local level?
  • Complex sales journeys can benefit from the use of technology, making it easier for both colleagues and customer. But just wedging in a tablet can add to the complexity
  • Additional functionality is added to the tablets to make them more efficient. This can end up taking colleagues away from customers e.g. stock counting, planograms and audits. Or tablets can be locked down so tightly that they are not useful
  • BYOD – On a recent trip to New York, it was apparent that they had skipped tablets and let colleagues use their own devices to help the customer. Although this brings different issues, it seemed widely used across many retailers and was very visible in action. Sometimes a colleague has more powerful tech in their own phone than company devices
  • Lack of ongoing support or budget from IT for damaged/out-of-date tablets
  • Tablets not linked to payment. Tablets can be a great mobile point-of-sale for non-cash transactions to efficiently bust queues during peak trade without the need to maintain more checkouts if set up to do so

All is not lost. We worked with a retailer recently who uses tablets very effectively to bring their widest inventory to customers buying in a category with lots of potential add-ons and colourways. Beyond what you see when you watch their colleagues interacting with an individual customer, our efficiency benchmark showed they spend a higher proportion of their time with customers than any other brand we have ever studied. Proof that it is possible to reduce workload by slimming down in-store inventory and reinvest that time into sales-led customer-facing activity.

If you want to learn how ReThink can help you understand how much time store colleagues are spending with customers, with and without tablets, and what is getting in the way of service time, contact our team.