June 6, 2022

Why you need mobile-to-fixed technology

Why mobile-to-fixed technology is a game changer.

Self service retail and hospitality strategies and the convenience it enables have revolutionized the way business is conducted. McKinsey & Co. report that commerce has “experienced more change over the past five years than in the prior 50.” Consider the retail segments, where customers buy products through self-checkout or pickup inside the store or outside through lockers or curbside with minimal human interaction. Hospitality innovation has also evolved the overall buyer journey where people are leveraging the benefits of self-service ordering to skip the line, simplify drive-through or curbside pickup.

Consumers have created demand for convenience throughout the buying journey. They expect employees to be knowledgeable about products, be able to tell them about other options, and check nearby stores for inventory availability. They want to avoid long checkout lines. And they want to have plenty of choices for how their purchases are delivered. According to Harvard Business Review, three-quarters of shoppers who have tried options like curbside delivery and in-store pickup intend to continue using these services in the future.

These expectations put a lot of pressure on the retailer and its’ employees. To enable the conveniences sought after by today’s customer, employees must be equipped to manage this new selling environment., I’s crucial employees have the right technology to assist. They need the flexibility of technology that fits in their pocket on the go with the capabilities to manage high volume tasks when needed. Employees need technology with the ability to be mobile and fits in their pocket to address the conveniences demanded by today’s customer with the option to be fixed or docked for high volume activities.

What is a mobile-to-fixed solution?

Businesses are betting big on technology in 2022. According to a survey of technology executives conducted by Gartner, 73% of retailers are boosting their spending on tech designed to improve in-store sales. This is important because although online sales continue to grow, in-store sales are still the main profit-driver for most retailers.

“Pleasurable physical retail experiences matter to consumers,” said Kelsie Marian, Senior Director Analyst, at Gartner. If retailers are to survive and succeed, improving these experiences must become an essential and crucial part of digital transformation.

Retail and hospitality industries are looking for a mobile-to-fixed solution. Simply put, this means a handheld device that you can plug it into a touch screen monitor and transform it into a fixed workstation. For example, a sales associate can check inventory at other stores while a customer is in the fitting room. Or a manager who has been working in the warehouse can plug in and run reports.

Why size matters for a mobile device

The size of the mobile device is an extremely important consideration. The wider screen on a tablet or other larger form factor is the main selling point, but it’s a tradeoff. It’s a lot to ask employees to carry around a two-pound device all day. It either has to be in their hand or clamped under their arm, where they are likely to fall. And we all know how likely tablets are to breakage when they hit the floor.

Because everyone is already familiar with consumer-grade smart phones, some companies are tempted to use them for their workforce. That was a disaster for one major retailer that bought several thousand consumer devices for its sales associates. Then it received an advisory from the manufacturer that it was changing the size of the connector cable. That meant instead of being able to continue to buy new equipment, it had to scour the market for used equipment.

The average life cycle of consumer mobile device is 12 to 18 months. It’s not cost effective for companies to rely on devices that will be obsolete in just over a year. You want a commercial-grade device with a battery that lasts for 12 hours and can easily cover long shifts. They can be fully charged in an hour, so they are ready to go again in no time. And should the need arise, the batteries are easily swappable; another thing you couldn’t do with a consumer-grade device.

What to look for in a mobile device

Look for mobile devices that are ruggedized so they can stand up to constant use. A MIL-STD-810 drop rating is something important to look for, because it means the device can hit the concrete floor without breaking. Invest in well-sealed devices that can operate in high heat or humidity.

The product options you need depend on the type of business you have, but the following are must-haves for the retail industry.

Barcode scanner. Look for built-in integrated barcode scanner, which gives employees the ability to check inventory, confirm prices, and scan coupons without leaving the customer’s side to return to a fixed monitor. When associate has to step away from a customer, the conversion rate plummets.

A device with a barcode scanner has applications for a wide range of businesses. For retail, it can provide on-site ordering, ticketing, and delivery tracking. In the warehouse, it can aid with inventory management.

Integrated payment system. Point of sale solutions are getting a lot of attention due to the critical service levels it can improve by eliminating lines at the register. More than 85% of consumers report leaving a store rather than wait in a line during the last 12 months. That’s an estimated $38 billion annually in lost sales in the U.S. alone. Self-service checkout stations are an improvement, but they don’t solve all retail industry needs.

With an integrated point of sale, each associate can function as a point-of-sale terminal. Customers can bypass the lines completely.

Unified architecture. Standalone mobile devices are not always easily adaptable to your current system. If possible, invest in a system with unified architecture. That means new mobile devices are essentially plug-and-play.

Some companies that manufacture mobile devices promise that they offer the equivalent of unified architecture, then suggest numerous workaround solutions. One says you can connect their equipment to a monitor, but only if you remove the bottom cap with a pair of pliers. It turns out that their USB-C connection is internal; not an optimal solution for agility in the workplace.

Checking the user manual of handheld devices reveals a lot. You might find that if you want to connect your device to an external display, you’ve got to purchase a separate docking station. That’s just not an efficient use of resources for most users — not just because of the initial cost, but because of the time and effort that goes into maintaining yet another piece of equipment.

Future proofing your system

Legacy platforms just aren’t able to handle the needs of an omnichannel environment. You need a system that can grow with you as your needs change.

It’s no longer enough to purchase just a payment device. A single device for inventory management also doesn’t make sense. You need a multi-capable device that can handle the needs of today’s demanding consumer.

By Rick Smith, Director, Business Development – Elo