How mobile devices can help retailers and sales associates find a confident path to success post COVID-19
As shuttered shops and furloughed sales associates emerge from a crisis unlike any other in recent history, it’s absurd to expect anything resembling business as usual for quite some time.
The retail world has been turned upside-down and inside-out. Many on the front lines found themselves suddenly risking their own safety for the greater good, while other non-essential store workers found themselves out of work and out of a paycheck entirely.
The pandemic has changed everything. While strategic reopening is certainly positive news and we’re all eager to get back to a “new normal”, doing so also poses a whole new set of workforce challenges that no one ever considered prior to the crisis. The status quo is history. A new age of retail is open for business and it’s one that must forge ahead with an even greater emphasis on safety, mutual trust, and ways connecting with a workforce that will be returning, in many ways, to an entirely new set of job requirements.
Mobile Devices Are An Opportunity To Connect With And Empower Your People Post COVID-19
It’s somewhat ironic that the tools we’ve all been using to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic, are the same ones that can help retailers and store staff meet the demands of reopening, and, in fact, improve performance in the months and years to come.
Eduardo Santaella, COO & General Manager of Mobile Insight, a company that specializes in pioneering retail technologies, puts it this way, “Anyone returning to a job in a retail environment is coming back to something a lot different than they left. New sanitization issues, foot traffic concerns, fewer available hours to work, engaging customers while also social distancing. There are so many new tasks to manage and comply with, and so much uncertainty for these employees that retailers are going to have to find ways to make things easier in whatever ways they can. Certainly, mobile devices are a great help because they not only allow for mass communication, they also personalize and prioritize the entire re-opening experience.”
Incorporating smartphones and tablets into task management and skills training facilitates what’s called “microlearning”, an educational model that puts more control in the hands of the individual. With microlearning, employees are given added authority and more flexibility in how they manage their daily activities, which tends to make them more engaged in directing their futures as a whole.
As retail emerges from this recent crisis, the level of personal power found through mobile devices will go a long way to making your staff feel more comfortable and confident going forward.
How Mobile Devices Can Help Stores Rethink And Reboot Post Pandemic
Task Management Post COVID-19
Employees are returning to whole new set of responsibilities. These likely include store and shelf sanitation, managing the number of customers allowed in stores at a given time, revamped store hours, even conducting wellness checks. Incorporating task management technology into personal mobile devices can help employees schedule and manage these new responsibilities more efficiently.
COVID-19 Task Compliance
It’s daunting enough to face new challenges on the job. But those that store personnel are in for post pandemic are unlike any they’ve seen before. The importance of handling these tasks correctly, and, worse, the consequences of mishandling them, add up to a whole new level of personal pressure. Mobile devices can help relieve some of this pressure by verifying activities and compliance with real-time photography. Not only will this help ease the employee’s mind in terms of personal responsibility, it also serves as rock-solid proof that the store is in full legal compliance with required standards – and that’s one sure way to avoid any potential infractions and fines.
Microlearning Makes Training Personal
Training via mobile devices allows you to create skill-based training programs built around store department, job description, required tasks, shift times and other metrics. Your employees will benefit from a personalized and flexible training program built around their specific responsibilities. Rather than asking them to sit through an often inconvenient and, let’s face it, ponderous classroom session, mobile device programs allow you to break up the training into more digestible chunks that have proven to be far more effective when it comes to retention. Mobile device training is available on command, so employees are free to access it on their own schedules and go back to it anytime they have questions. Additionally, personal training can be provided immediately before a major initiative for maximum recall when it matters most.
With so many changes in store for retail employees, microlearning using mobile devices is a great way to provide training that educates, motivates, and reinforces proper SOPs.
Some of the biggest questions employees are sure to have post COVID-19 revolve around scheduling. Things are going to be vastly different and probably a lot less cut and dry than they were before. One way to alleviate employee uncertainty and stress is to allow them some autonomy over when and how they work. Mobile devices that share the same retail management software make this possible through self-scheduling. Staff can switch shifts, pick up shifts, change schedules, request days off, look for extra hours – all by working together on an intuitive platform. Self-scheduling options remove a lot of pressure from the shoulders of store managers, while also allowing your valuable workers to gain better control over their own work/life balance.
Clear & Relevant Communication
When communications are managed using personal smartphones and tablets, employees can get all their messages in a consistent format and in the context of their work environment. In other words, as part of logging in each day, new messages uniquely relevant to their roles and responsibilities will be clearly visible and trackable. Essentially, every employee is connected to a centralized communications station that’s flexible enough to broadcast both company-wide news and send highly specific and secure messages and requests to any number of individuals.
Everything from operational updates related to COVID-19 to new product launches to messages from the boardroom can all be accessed instantly from anywhere.
But those responsible for these communications should be careful not to send an endless barrage of information. Keep things relevant to your team’s jobs and expected outcomes. After all, you want employees to act on these critical messages not view them as more corporate spam. Like the old story of the boy who cried wolf, communication overload will quickly be tuned out and ignored.
Your people have been through a lot during this crisis, so use your communications to reward, uplift and reinforce your appreciation for their hard work. Let them know you care about their safety and their success as much as ever in these challenging times.
In a nutshell, be smart and sincere; clear and concise; and throw in a good deal of humanity. We’ve all had a good amount of training in communicating using our devices over the past few months. Apply what you learned!
The Road Ahead
Perhaps, the best part of integrating mobile devices as you re-open is the fact that they’ll be a valuable asset long after this initial period of uncertainly is behind the retail industry. Mobile communications and management solutions can help improve every area of retail – communications, staff training and scheduling, inventory, merchandising, in-store conditions, field operations, customer engagement and many other areas.
Post COVID-19 has brought us a very different retail industry – one that demands more from your staff, and, therefore, more from you. Mobile technology just might prove to be an invaluable addition to a successful reopening strategy. To learn more about mobile solutions in the wake of the pandemic and other retail management programs that can help you and your people succeed immediately and down the road, visit www.mobileinsight.com.
Mobile Insight® is the only retail and merchandise management solution designed to meet the brick and mortar sales challenges of high-value brands and retailers. Unlike hardware and software providers that focus on fast-moving goods, the Mobile Insight® platform delivers assisted sales solutions for more complex, interactive, and customer-centric environments. Combining data from in-store systems, 3PLs, employee and partner activity, Mobile Insight® enables informed, smarter decisions that drive sales and operations excellence. For more information, visit www.mobileinsight.com.
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