Retail Employees Should Start (Smart)Phoning It In 

Mobile devices at retail locations increased both sales and consumer satisfaction

Author: Monica Melton

September 14, 2017

Retail customers are known for using their smartphones in-store to get product information and compare prices. But new research shows employees of retail stores are increasingly using mobile devices on the job, sometimes for the same reasons.

In a survey conducted in September, publishing network Retail TouchPoints found that more than half (56%) of US retailers gave their employees some type of mobile device. Another 17% said they planned to arm staff with such devices in the near future.

Store employees are using the devices for a variety of tasks, the survey found. Over two-thirds (67%) of retailers said personnel used mobile devices to look up product information, while 54% had their workforce turn to gadgets to see if a product was available or gauge inventory levels.

Surprisingly, less than one-third (28%) of retailers are using mobile device-laden employees to process payments. This suggests that many retail stores may want to reconsider their in-store checkout procedures. Companies like Apple and Warby Parker have made waiting in line at a checkout aisle feel like an anachronism by letting wandering sales consultants use a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system to ease the purchase process.

These sorts of increased efficiencies from in-store mobile device use have led to positive sales outcomes for retailers. Retail TouchPoints found that more than four in 10 retailers polled (42%) reported increased upsells and cross-sells as a result of giving their employees mobile devices, while 58% noted increased customer satisfaction levels.

Though retailers report anecdotal sales increases from the wider use of mobile devices at their locations, the broader trend for the sector remains less sunny.

RetailNext data from July found that in-store sales at US retailers declined by 8.1% year over year this June. Transactions were down by 7.3% over the same time period, while traffic to store locations fell 8.3%.