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The retail segment of all businesses has evolved substantially to replace inefficiencies and losses due to human errors and other flaws with automated services that have saved both time and money, freeing the work force for more productive and critical jobs in the business. Besides barcode technology and RFID tags, mobile computing solutions have been added to streamline systems and processes. The result is higher efficiency levels, greater customer satisfaction and higher profitability with decisions taken on time.
This has become possible because mobile technology has provided access to information anytime, anywhere. Information holds the key to success in businesses. This is even more true in the retail sector. Information helps in the following ways in the retail sector:
- Customers get a quicker response from retailers about their requests
- They have access to more personalized service
- Retailers know about customer preferences and ensure these are made accessible to the customer
- Retailers are informed about inventory levels at all times to ensure timely replenishments, and customers’ buying trends enable them to make timely decisions about stocking up the right products.
The Internet Advantage
Stores in the market place are omnipresent but the same stores are stretching beyond their boundary walls to woo customers on the internet. The internet provides them access to millions of customers in cyber space, each looking for the best bargain, that is, the best quality product at the lowest possible price. Online shopping is a full day affair that has no closing or opening hours and customers love the freedom of shopping whenever the need arises 24×7.
Thus the internet has created a global market place that is highly competitive and this cut throat competition is likely to wipe out the not so savvy retailer. Customers have access to all the information and can no longer be “fooled” into buying by glib talk by smart salesmen or advertising campaigns.
Advertising has changed too. While internet advertising took off initially, increasingly, net surfers are blocking pop ups and ensuring that advertisements are not mailed to them. Commercials are skipped and even eDM or electronic direct mail cannot be sent by a store without the customer’s permission.
The most significant impact has been on price levels of all products. The internet places all details about products including their prices at the customers’ disposal with a few clicks of the mouse. Net savvy customers conduct extensive research on the Internet, getting product specifications, the options available and the respective prices. This is a routine practice for products that are on the shopping list. Shopping on impulse is not very different. Customers carry mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) to the market, and on seeing a new product that catches their fancy, instantly use wireless connections to search its specifications and prices elsewhere before buying. If the store quotes a price higher than that, they lose the customer for that item at least.
Retailers in turn, look for the cheapest sources to buy products and keep their margins at the lowest possible levels. With intense competition, this becomes universal, and across the supply chain and the product market, lower prices and lower profitability become the norm.
Thus the customer has forced retailers to:
- Become more service oriented and provide personalized service
- Offer variety and competitive prices
- Keep his profit margins low
The retailers in turn are determined to use the same technology to their advantage. Existing technology enables mass access to consumers through the media like television. Wireless services and mobile connectivity have ensured that people remain connected to family and friends, to the work place and current events. It is these connections that retailers can use to push their business further. They can get real time access in dynamic ways and use it to reach out to the customer anywhere anytime, especially when he walks into the store. This is aided by technological wonders like the Motorola retail mobility solutions. It enables the retailer to offer unparalleled customer service besides improving the efficiency of the worker and his productivity, while also getting customer loyalty in the bargain.
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