Guest Column | October 16, 2013

BYOD: A Battle Of Devices

By Christophe Naasz, Business Development Director, Star Micronics

In the high-paced retail culture, leading companies are striving to stand out in a crowded marketplace through innovation, time to market, and increased employee productivity to build sales and ultimately boost revenue. And there’s one growth trend that is the driving force today — mobile technology. One particular method capturing corporate attention is “bring your own device” (BYOD) — allowing employees to use personal mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for corporate uses, as well as for customer interaction on the showroom floor. However, with that added bonus for employees, comes great responsibility for businesses. Managing BYOD puts extra burden on companies as they try to streamline operations. I’d like to discuss the challenges that come with BYOD, as well as the benefits.

Staying Ahead Of The Technically Savvy Shopper

Shoppers today can walk into a store, scan products into their smartphones, compare prices with another store, and walk right out the door again, taking that information — and that revenue — with them.

That’s why it’s critical for retailers to stay a step ahead of today’s incredibly knowledgeable shopper, who most always will have a mobile device in tow. According to an RIS/IHL 2012 Store Systems Study, 52 percent of retailers are planning to roll out tablets to their employees in stores within the coming year, while another 25 percent plan to roll out tablets in the following 12 months. And that doesn’t account for companies that have or will adopt BYOD. From the small corner store to the Fortune 500, retailers of all sizes are gradually recognizing the important of arming employees with mobile devices to better engage with customers at their level  — and keep the sales flowing. Leveraging mobile technology is a smart business and marketing move that can result in improved customer satisfaction, with the end goal of gaining customer loyalty.

Managing BYOD For Retailers

So once a retailer allows the use of thousands of personal mobile devices across multiple locations, challenges arise that can’t be ignored. Mobile devices are designed primarily for consumer use, with businesses coming in second. Howeve,r with the evolving technology paradigm, those lines are becoming blurred. The retail industry at large is finding it grueling to standardize the management of these devices in the field and in the showroom.

Here are some of the challenges to keep in mind when strategizing corporate policies:

  • Device Maintenance:  Users will most likely not call their service provider to troubleshoot problems — they will depend on your company’s IT department. This could mean more revenue spent on dedicated help desk resources specifically for mobile devices.
  • Business Security: What if a personal device is stolen or an employee decides to upgrade and sell the older device on eBay? With confidential business information contained on it, how do you protect that data and stay PCI compliant?
  • Rising Costs: When employees use their personal phones and tablets to access company information, email and other applications, it’s inevitable the employee will see a data usage spike. Is the company responsible to reimburse users? What is the line between personal and business usage? 
  • Device Inconsistencies: Over half of retailers say the biggest roadblock to rolling out a standard mobile device management strategy is employees using varied versions of a brands or types of devices throughout the enterprise.

Managing BYOD for Customers

How will BYOD for customers evolve in the store of the future?  Another world of challenges arises when store guests could someday use their phones to actually purchase items.

  • Types of devices: Will a retailer allow customers to use any type of mobile device to purchase items?
  • Customer service: If customers are checking themselves out, what role will customer service play?
  • Inventory:  Can you trust that the items scanned into a smartphone will be the same item the customer walks out the door with? Will inventory tracking become a nightmare?
  • Staffing and Security:  A change in staffing strategies will be necessary. What will employee roles be? Will as many staff members be needed in brick and mortar stores? If staffing is reduced, does that cause a greater security issue?

Reaping The Rewards

As with any great challenge, there can also be great rewards.  So it will go with BYOD as you and your clients work out the kinks. As a Retail VAR, you can help your clients see the following ROI:

  • Attract the best employees: Whether an employee has an MBA or is an entry-level sales clerk,  people in general expect a high level of connectivity they enjoy at home. And only needing one device for both business and pleasure makes life easier. It’s definitely an incentive for recruits.
  • Win over online shoppers:  Online customers can still use the same UI from their mobile device to shop and compare prices. But they can enjoy added benefits of having inventory on hand, live customer service, and the instant gratification of walking out of the store with their purchase in hand
  • Increased Productivity: One idea is to provide employees with an app that will turn their smart devices into an online employee portal. With it, they can clock in and out, review upcoming tasks, and find out about training. It even goes as far as sending real-time alerts so employees can attend to tasks that need it most.
  • Superior Customer Service: Since customers come into a brick and mortar store with product knowledge they’ve already attained through their smartphone, it’s a must that employees have even quicker mobile access to data that will bring more unique value. “Inside” information about inventory, delivery times, and upcoming promotions will provide consumers with a personalized, more enjoyable shopping experience.
  • Innovation: Bottom line: when workers are more efficient, they have more time to be creative.  And creativity breeds innovation.

BYOD is still an evolving trend, however it’s one that is essential to address today. An acute awareness of the challenges of BYOD can help you provide solutions that help your customers’ businesses run effectively while still maintaining PCI compliance — boosting their efficiency and heightening engagement with consumers.