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By James Robins, CMO at Canvas

As the holiday shopping season hovers just over the horizon, the supply chain is already humming. Stores are preparing to hire, and retail owners and managers are looking to find new ways to increase revenue – all while heading into the busiest time of the year. One beneficial tool that they may be overlooking are various mobile technology resources. Until very recently, mobile tech has understandably been viewed as the enemy, but now retailers are increasingly warming up to it. Mobile apps are helping to capture and hold the attention of shoppers and this is becoming a crucial part of the retail experience, with on-demand price checking, access to digital coupons and rewards programs seen as the new normal. Even more beneficial is further expanding the use of mobile tech tools that help to pave the way for a smart and more connected retail store.

Whether the store is a franchisee and part of a national chain or is a sole proprietor of a mom-and-pop store, to gain a competitive edge in this digital age, retailers need to lean on mobile technology to help them increase profit margins. For instance, automating workflows can take many steps out of bureaucratic processes, greatly increasing operational efficiencies. Here are a few advantages of taking a mobile-first approach – from the backroom to checkout - that will completely change the retail experience.

Happy Employee, Happy Customer

All it takes is one not-so-great experience with a retailer’s employee to deter a customer from ever returning. This is why keeping employees motivated and engaged is so crucial.

According to a 2012 study by Dale Carnegie Training, 45 percent of American employees are only partially engaged — and a full 26 percent consider themselves disengaged. The cost of this disengagement? The same researchers say that the employee turnover rate is approaching 65 percent per year — and that businesses in the United States lose $11 billion due to all of this turnover.

By having the right tools, technology can help manage and improve employee productivity, motivation and engagement. For example, mobile point-of-sale devices serve as catalogs and cash registers that retailers can use to sell products from the sales floor. These small devices come with credit card sliders and merchandise scanners. And they allow individual employees to play the combined roles of sales associate, help desk and cashier — and store owners to get by with fewer employees.

Armed and empowered with information via mobile devices and apps, employees will benefit with having a better work environment – one where customers view them as knowledgeable and valuable team members who can answer questions and produce results.

Uncover Treasured Data

Have a slice of “big data” without the usual, hefty price tag. What was once only available to big companies with deep pockets, is now readily accessible to retailers of all sizes. Thanks to a thriving mobile business ecosystem, tools are taking the guesswork out of things like inventory, scheduling, store inspections, energy usage and even health and safety issues.

The key is finding an app or, better, a platform with many interoperable apps (one is not going to do everything you need all by itself) that best suits the businesses overall needs. These solutions will help to identify what is most important for the business and can subsequently zero in on the data points that are most meaningful. For example, physical and manual inventory checking may miss that a certain product is steadily growing in popularity in the month of September, or that entering a new customer into the system is taking longer than expected. With the right tool, tracking of activity and usage shows where there are inefficiencies that can in turn can be remedied. By observing and monitoring patterns, thousands of dollars can be saved. 

Digitize the Marketplace

Operating an online shop, but still relying on paper-based forms for fulfillment and delivery orders? Or venturing beyond a brick-and-mortar shop and transferring information from paper into a computer? Both of these scenarios costs retailers money, time and increases the chance of errors.

Invest in using mobile technology for forms and purchase orders. Not only are the forms faster to complete, but it is much more accurate. Going mobile also reduces times where forms are lost and re-printing is needed, and even causes a drop in storage and distribution costs.

For cases when an employee is straying from checkout to help customers on the floor or attending a local or national event, mobile forms - whether it be to access inventory, orders or delivery details - can accompany them.  

Regardless of the type or size of a store, there are many layers and pieces involved in owning and managing a retail store. Where retailers can gain the competitive edge and value is through mobile technology resources. By leveraging it to achieve actionable insights, improve employee productivity, reduce inefficiencies and cut overall costs, retailers will be on their way to becoming smart and connected.


James Robins is CMO at Canvas, a mobile platform that makes it simple for businesses to automate how work is done, replacing outdated processes and expensive paperwork. He has held leadership positions in some of the world’s leading global brands and hyper-growth early stage businesses, including Orange, Automobile Association, Myriad Group and NEC. He has developed award winning challenger brands and B2B/B2C SaaS platforms covering financial services, mobile software and social media. Over the past 10 years, James has built 100M+ customer bases and cutting-edge solutions that have delivered 4B software installations that transform how people live and work in an increasingly connected world.

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