When you hear the phrase “disruptive retail technologies”, you probably think of touchscreens, mobile ordering apps, drive-thrus with digital signage, digital promotions at the pump, and other customer-facing technologies that are changing how goods and services are delivered. As discussed by a digital transformation strategies panel at NRF 2018, building solutions based on customer input is crucial. However, the subtext of this conversation is that when c-store retailers invest in employee-facing technology, they are harnessing customer input for the simple fact that employees are customers, too.
Your employees not only bring their own consumer opinions to work, but they also bring their own technology — specifically, smartphones. Employee-facing mobile technology can be disruptive because it lowers the cost of training and implementation. No lengthy seminars on new gadgets, no complicated software—just an easy-to-use platform on a familiar device.
Mobile technology also allows seamless integration of task automation, one application of artificial intelligence (A.I.). As reported by Convenience Store Decisions, one of the presenters from Wesco, a 52-store chain based in Michigan, described the company’s A.I. program where stores spend 5 to 10 minutes per week reviewing merchandising recommendations, making adjustments and, via the mobile application, responding with the action they’ve taken. The software then calculates results and provides monthly ROI, which has led to an increase in sales. In this one example, you can see how the advancement of artificial intelligence provides Wesco with new insights. This concept can be applied to other areas of c-store operations.
For instance, you can configure a mobile solution to automatically assign a task when there is an issue at a store. Say, for example, a regional manager notices a sticky floor during a routine audit. He or she arrives at the question, “Is the floor clean?” Answering “no” creates and assigns a new task to the store manager. The store manager is then responsible for completing the task and verifying its completion with photos. The entire workflow takes place on a single platform, and reporting and analytic tools provide an extra level of insights into a company’s operations.
So yes, mobile technology is an emerging, disruptive technology in retail, both up front and behind the scenes. If c-store retailers are interested in using mobile tech in operations, the great news is that it’s already present in your stores—it’s just a matter of tapping into its capabilities.
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