How Retailers are Using Mobile Technology to Address Their Biggest IT Challenges

Like any industry, the retail supply chain is facing a mountain of challenges as a result of various market shifts and ongoing economic pressures. Customers are far more discerning with how they spend their money, partly because of changing shopping habits post-COVID but also because of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Retailers in food retail, for instance, are finding customers are happy to split their shops between multiple retail outlets, so there’s a far greater onus on not only attracting new customers but retaining those they already have and nurturing those customers, so they ultimately spend more in a single store.

A serious shortage in labour is also hitting retailers across food, fashion and countless other corners of the high street, placing further pressure on remaining staff to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. So how can mobile computers, barcode scanners and other devices help address these issues and empower retailers to become more flexible in their aim to connect the modern store?


Dedicated self-service devices help retailers address labour shortages and compete with enhanced membership pricing models

While many retailers offer apps for customers to use in a self-service function on their own devices, making dedicated handheld devices, such as the TC7X Series or ET4x Tablets from Zebra, available in store continues to be the go-to choice. Customers want to remain in control in the same way they do online, and having a dedicated device that can scan barcodes and track in their shop in-store offers a convenient way to extending that self sufficiency.

With retailers often competing for the same customers, pricing has become a constantly shifting front. Dedicated self-service devices are a great vehicle for supporting membership and loyalty programs where a scanned card can then apply special discounts and promotions for customers, offering significant reductions on products that appeal to their shopping habits.

Giving customers more control also enables retailers to address issues with staffing issues so they can redirect staff to more pressing tasks such as customer service roles or shelf restocks. The sheer growth in the number of self-service technologies in the retail sector – ranging from handheld scanners to kiosks – are indicative of a significant shift in how customer’s view the retail experience.

Mobile devices are providing multiple functions for retail and embracing the concept of ‘mobile POS’

‘Across the retail sector, we’re seeing mobile devices deployed with more than one function in mind. In a fashion setting, a mobile device will be used by staff to check stock inventory, scan barcodes when stock deliveries arrive and serve as a means of communication between staff working in different areas of the store.

These devices are also increasingly being utilised as mobile points of sale (POS) platforms. Leveraging mobile technology that supports smarter payments through NFC enables retailers to reduce the cost of setting up fixed payment points while helping address peak periods of business where customers need to be served faster to ensure a sale is completed. Having an optimised wireless network in place across these retail sites will also bolster the effectiveness of these mobile tools.

Windows CE devices are still out there, but they’re no longer supported and optimised on the same level as Android.

Windows-based devices, specifically those running Windows CE, may represent a trusted and familiar operating system, but that OS has been without active support from Microsoft for the last couple of years. That lack of support means those devices are no longer optimised or as secure as they could be compared to a similar device running Android.

While there are containerised solutions out there based on Windows 10, they’re a short-term solution that will only extend an organisation’s reliance on a mobile Windows platform. While the move to Android can be intimidating one, especially when you want to protect the integrity of your existing Telnet and WMS applications, the right solution partner can help ease the transition by using these container apps to mitigate any risks.

Android presents plenty of benefits for retail supply chain organisations, including the fact that it’s a well-used and recognised platform (making training and onboarding easier), it’s faster and more secure thanks to consistent updates from Google and supports enhanced upgrades such as graphical user interfaces (an alternative to the traditional ‘green on black’ applications of older Windows models).

Mobile technology and self-service devices are empowering customers and helping address staff shortages.

Labour shortages continue to impact the retail sector, but the right hardware and software can help support the staff you do have. Kiosks and other self-service units found popularity in the food retail market, but now we’re seeing them deployed across fashion outlets and other non-food environments. That hesitation regarding how a customer could complete their sale to the same level of satisfaction is less of an issue, enabling retailers to deploy staff elsewhere for more pressing tasks.

Innovation continues to drive technology in the retail supply chain. Even convenience stores are beginning to use intelligent modelling to predict periods when certain items will sell in larger volumes due to events or seasonal drives, enabling them to order stock and fill shelves to accommodate these spikes. The same thinking is applied to gap checks, where mobile devices are being used to identify stock shortages and react faster to avoid potential lost sales.

Want to hear more about the benefits of an optimised wireless network for retail? Watch the latest episode of Connecting the Modern Store above and visit out YouTube channel for more end-to-end AIDC technology solution insights from our experts. You can also listen to an audio-only version here.
Contact us today to book your visit to the Renovotec Innovation Centre at our UK Head Office in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside and meet our wireless network solutions specialists for retail.

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