Smartphones are transforming retail.

Mobile devices are an indispensable part of our daily lives. We use them for seemingly everything, from connecting with loved ones on social media, to checking real-time weather and traffic, to paying bills and playing games. Mobile has changed a lot for consumers, and it’s changed a lot for industries. In fact, I wrote a book on how mobile flipped the retail space.

Retailers today know they have to integrate mobile technology into their brand experience, but they’re only thinking about mobile in terms of their customer. What about the store associate who is on the front line of ensuring superior experiences?

Stephan Schambach

Stephan Schambach  fotostudio_charlottenburg

The retailers that don’t take full advantage of the tools disrupting the industry today, are the ones that will not survive. But it’s more than putting any mobile device in the hand of store teams. Associates need smartphones. And they need to be able to use their own.

Let’s dig a little deeper into why.

Smartphones: The Center of the Mobile Universe

Deloitte’s 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey found that smartphones are the most favored device among U.S. consumers. While smartphones continue to thrive as it relates to market penetration, other devices — namely tablets — are stalling.

Retailers, think about it this way. Your store teams are made up of consumers, who very closely resemble your customers. Smartphones, and the apps and tools on them, are likely their second nature. Why wouldn’t you arm your employees with technology they’re savvy at?

BYOD: A Win-Win for Retailers

There are two options when it comes to in-store smartphones. The first is to supply associates unique shared devices, which they return at the end of their shift. The second is to allow associates to use their personal smartphones — á la bring your own device. While there are common benefits such as form factor, hardware and connectivity, the BYOD option has far greater benefits on your bottom line.

Reduced costs. With employee-owned smartphones, retailers can save on IT support costs. Cisco found companies favoring BYOD make an annual saving of $350 per year, per employee. So, you don’t need to spend money on new technology — use the smartphones your associates already have in their pockets and love.

Increased motivation. Because the smartphone belongs to the employee — meaning there is a greater sense of ownership — they will likely be more motivated to care for it. For store associates, this includes keeping it charged, updated and protected. Ultimately, your store associates will be more inclined to take a leadership role in the success of your stores.

Greater productivity. According to Frost & Sullivan, using mobile devices for work tasks saves employees 58 minutes per day while increasing productivity by 34 percent. This enables store teams to focus on enriching the customer experience by way of their clienteling efforts. For example, BYOD immediately unlocks associate-to-customer communication, allowing store teams to engage and transact with customers outside of the store’s four walls.

The Great Debate: iPhone versus Android

If you’re convinced your brand needs smartphone-powered store associates, the next question is what kind of smartphone? Well, not all are created equal as far as retail is concerned. The iPhone rises above the rest and has significant advantages — all of which revolve around experience. Customers of NewStore can attest to this.

There is no denying that iPhones are the easiest smartphone to use. The user interface is intuitive and simple to navigate, which is important for store associates who need real-time access to information to help move customers forward on their path to purchase.

Also easy to use is Apple Pay. There is such simplicity and pleasure in being able to pay without a physical card. For both the customer and retailer, it’s the ideal — a frictionless relationship in which nothing stands between what the customer wants and how the retailer delivers it.

We also can’t overlook the undeniable prestige of the iPhone, which creates a halo effect on retailers’ brands. Apple is synonymous with experience and innovation, and every retailer should aspire to be known for similar guiding principles.

The Retail Imperative

Mobility is going to be a big focus for retailers in 2019 and beyond — especially its role in the in-store customer experience. But it would be completely remiss to only focus on mobile as it relates to customers. Yes, the customer needs to be at the core, but store associates are your secret weapons. Use them.

Smartphones are the go-to device for consumers, and they need to be the go-to device for associates. Like having one’s own device is a requirement for Uber drivers, it is a necessity for retail store associates. The time is now to introduce iPhones to your brand experience.

Stephan Schambach is chief executive officer and founder of NewStore.

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