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Mobile Application in Retail

Smart Phone, Tablets, Hand Held Terminals along with availability of 2G/ 3G / Wi-Fi internet connectivity has redefined the definition of mobility. The mobile phone is no longer just a communication device but is now a preferred device to access social media, email, data, m-commerce and running enterprise class application.  Mobile Apps are now available for different purposes and retail can leverage the benefit to not all reach customers but also build enterprise solutions to address business needs.
The use cases for Mobile Application can be categorized as Customer Interface Application and Enterprise Interface Application.

  • Consumer Interface Application - Mobile Application are been developed to reach customer and enhance their shopping experience. Some of the applications which are in use today are:
    • Interactive Shopping List – The interactive shopping list allows the customer to prepare, copy, modify a shopping list, share them with family and friends, allow them to place orders directly to the store and take home delivery. This interactive shopping list provides information of the promotion program run at the store and along with alerts based on history of purchases of the customer. Built in apps for scanning of QR code and Bar Code allow the customer to complete the shopping list faster and get more information of the product. The Retailer can run various engagement programs like contest, recipes, knowledge base etc… to ensure frequent visits by the customer to the application.
    • Mobile Responsive E-Commerce Site – With the preference to the customer to access internet been shifted from personal computer to the mobile the retailer are ensuring that their website and e-commerce application are mobile responsive.
    • In-store Mapping Service – Using beacons for mobile tracking the retailer can now identify the customer who visits the store. Based on the customer preference and past history the retailer can now push targeted promotion that work. However, while doing so the retailer should not ensure that the fine line of privacy should not be crossed and the customer feels comfortable with this channel of communication. The offers should be relevant and exiting for the customer.
    • Loyalty Program and Coupons – Retailer can now provide information on Loyalty Program run by the store through notification and alerts. The Loyalty Apps can allow for redemption. Referral Rewards through sharing of link and Mobile Coupons are increasingly popular.
    • Store Information – The customer can now reach a store along with the map and direction. Advertising the store location on different mapping application helps the customer reaching the store location.

  • Enterprise Interface Application – Mobile Application are been developed to facilitate business activities in an effective manner. Some of the applications which are in use today are:
    • Inventory Management – Mobile application are increasingly used for maintaining and tracking inventory. The application can now be used to create item master, click and map images of products to the item master with ease, count the inventory. Real time tracking of inventory and bring efficiency to ordering cycle is now possible. The mobile apps can be integrated with the supply chain management system to place order directly.
    • Mobile Point of Sale - Mobile Point of Sales solution are increasingly used independently or integrated with the Enterprise POS or E-Commerce site. The Mobile POS can be used as a fixed terminal or can be carried by the in-store staff to facilitate the customer. It could have pre-loaded information of the products details so that the customer queries are answered along with placing the order for faster checkout.
    • Monitoring of Store – The retailer can view the store remotely on mobile device thus allowing them to keep track of the business even while they are away. They can view the store information live while connecting through the POS or through Dashboard Reports. They can also monitor the store or warehouse remotely by connecting to the cameras installed.
    • General Application – Mobile application can used for allowing employees to view their sales performance vis-à-vis target, view leave and other records, make application for leave and enter voucher details for approval.
    • Training Application – Employees can be provided small capsules of training content related to customer management, operations management and self-development. This can be tracked, assessed and reviewed.

  • Factors to be considered while implementing mobile application
    Following factors should be considered while implementing mobile application:-
    • Ensure Content and Functionality – The content and functionality of the apps should be current and relevant. An app which is not engaging at the first instance is unlikely to get good customer feedback and would be rejected by them. It is important that proper thought has gone while considering the features of the apps. The roll out should be done only after achieving certain key functionality and engaging and contextual content.
    • Own vs. White Label vs. Co-branded vs. Outright vs. Subscription - A careful thought should be given in terms of integration with the overall business strategy and system before taking this decision.  While taking a decision, the capability of the vendor in understanding the domain functionality, delivery time, integration with other system, implementation, training and support should be considered. Evaluation with regards to references of the vendor and the subscription model along with change request management and upgrade policy need to be done.
    • Native vs. Web App vs. Hybrid – The native apps makes the best use of the functionality of the mobile devices as they are installed on the mobile device itself. There may be challenges which needs be addressed to ensure proper installation, synchronization, security of data, reinstallation, data backup and updates. These are better handled in web-apps but then there is a heavy dependency on the internet connectivity. Mobile devices are basically personal device and role based security implementation may become a challenge and needs to be addressed on native apps. Further native apps are required to be built for their respective OS support which involves a lot of development cost and time. A hybrid option is now gaining popularity.
    • Data Access and Security – This need to be ensured especially in Enterprise Mobile Application where employees may download and have access to sensitive information. The access to such information should be terminated in event the employee leaves the organization / transferred to another department / location or in event the employee misplaces or changes the mobile device. Proper access logs should be maintained for tracking.
    • Proper Permission – Ensure that the customer / supplier / employee and other application users are informed and confirm to the tracking and privacy policy. The application design should ensure adherence to these policy.
    • Proper Testing – The application should be properly tested for each release. The test case and testing should be done for different devices based on the accepted form factor and OS for which the development has been done.
    • No fit all solution – A modular approach is a preferred option and each feature should be considered on its merits. Attempt should not be made to create an all in one system which becomes complex to manage.
    • Review – Regular reviews should be done and corrective taken as required.