5 ways BYOD can transform the retail experience

To be a great retail company, you have to be a great technology company.

Digital purchasing power has increased 26% since 2014, and ecommerce has accelerated by five years in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the retail technology story is about a lot more than selling products online. The consumer experience is well on its way to complete and total digitization. Payment is going cashless and contactless. Customers can increasingly handle transactions on their own device, without interacting with store associates. Brands are taking advantage of a growing array of digital tactics, including social media, localization, augmented reality and machine learning, to target their stories and influence buying decisions.

Digital retail extends beyond consumers. It also impacts your associates. Retail will always be a human experience enhanced by technology. ATMs didn’t eliminate bank tellers. Instead, financial workers became free to focus on the human elements of their brand experience. This is now happening across all of retail as associates engage in more digital ways, including appointment-based selling, click-and-collect and live streaming.

Preparing the frontline for a not-so-distant digital future has to become a top priority for every retailer (#2 behind health and safety). Associates can’t be left to figure this out on their own, and you can’t afford to pull them off the floor when staffing is already tight. Instead of making them come to you, you have to bring information and training to them. Luckily, you already have the tools needed to digitize your frontline retail experience in your associates’ pockets.

Here are 5 ways personal mobile devices can transform your retail business.

#1 | Accelerate information flow
A digital consumer experience gives you the power to adjust your go-to-market strategy on the fly. You can drop new promotions overnight in response to new insights and sudden changes in consumer needs and preferences. However, to really benefit from this capability, you need to keep your associates up to date. After all, they’re responsible for selling new promotions to your customers. By activating their personal devices, you can deploy consistent messages directly to your frontline. No more relying on analog tactics like bulletin board postings or manager huddles. Want to drop a surprise sale mid-day? Now you can with full support from your staff. Need to adjust a process due to a sudden regulatory change? Now your associates will know what’s what as soon as you do.

76% of people in advanced economies own a smartphone.

#2 | Get out of the back room
Your store associates need to be on the floor supporting customers and running your fulfillment operation. They don’t have 30 minutes to sit in the back room clicking through online training. Plus, sharing a computer with a few dozen other associates is a potential health risk right now. Personal devices let associates access training when and where they need it. They can complete quick 5-minute refresher sessions on their smartphone right after clocking in to make sure they have the know-how to do their jobs safely and productively. When they don’t know how to answer a question (and the customer wants to get in/out of the store as quickly as possible), they can find the info using their own device (without frustrating the customer).

#3 | Expand your reach
Today, your associates can only find information in specific locations. Associates might check for news when they walk past the bulletin board to start their shift. They may hear about an update if they happen to be scheduled for the pre-shift huddle. Otherwise, they rely on their peers and managers to (hopefully) fill them in. When they can access messages and training on their smartphones, they can take control of their work and make sure they’re always prepared. If they haven’t worked for a few days, they can stay up to date from home and report for their next shift ready to go.

Trying to overcome barriers to BYOD, including working while off the clock or cellular data limits? Check out our proven practices for activating personal devices on the frontline!

#4 | Protect your data
Reality check! Your associates are already using their personal devices for work. They have groups on Facebook and WhatsApp where they swap shifts and share information. Your store managers are also probably using informal group chats to communicate with their teams. Consumer solutions may prove helpful. However, they can also create considerable risk for your company. What happens if someone shares inappropriate information or internal data due to the lack of regulation around these channels? Protect your customers, organization and associates while addressing their performance needs by providing approved mobile apps—without burdening your IT team with more devices to buy, administer and maintain.

#5 | Future-proof your business
To overcome disruption, your frontline must execute consistently and confidently as you adapt your business strategy. “Future-proof” may sound like an overpromise, especially for something as seemingly simple as a BYOD policy. But smartphones provide us with access to the world around us. They help us find the information we need to live our best lives. They connect us to one another. You can leverage this connection to help your people—and your business—overcome whatever comes next by continuously improving their knowledge, skills and confidence.

Retail has always been transformed by technology. Cars. Telephones. Computers. Social platforms. Mobile devices. Artificial intelligence. Great retailers apply technological innovation to improve the human experiences—in the store, online and on the phone. Smartphones have forever changed the way you engage your customers. They’re ready and waiting to revolutionize the way you engage your associates.

Be safe. Be well. Be kind to the frontline.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.