How mobile apps increase the efficiency of retail stores

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Emil Waszkowski
How mobile apps increase the efficiency of retail stores

It’s no secret that shopping behaviours and trends are changing. To start with: ‘patient’ is the last adjective that can be used to describe modern consumers - they expect seamless experiences, and they want them now. Apart from customer expectations, though, it’s also mobility that is changing the current state of affairs. Mobile strategies are no longer nice-to-haves - they are necessary.

In fact, both customers and workforces are increasingly mobile, forcing the organisations to adapt fast - and the retail industry is no different. Luckily, increasingly more retailers have been working on their mobile products. Much of their focus, however, has been on increasing revenue by making shopping easier, also outside of physical stores. 

What’s often overlooked is the ability of mobile apps to boost operational efficiency and overall performance of brick-and-mortar retail stores. Since companies with business mobility are reported to achieve greater IT operational gains than companies without, it might finally be the time to make good use of it in retail as well.

How can a mobile app improve the efficiency of a retail business?   

There’s no doubt that mobile apps have plenty of features that can boost customer support and loyalty (in fact, we’ve already written an article on improving retail loyalty through mobile apps). Still, mobile apps in retail don’t have to be used solely by consumers - managers, franchisees and business owners can also take advantage of them.  

Actually, enterprise mobility has been a trending topic in recent years - it’s already estimated that by 2020 the global enterprise mobility market will be worth $140 billion. It might be because developing such solutions is already a top priority for more than 71% of researched businesses, while 63% think that mobility is the most important factor to gaining a competitive advantage.

No wonder: mobile is an important part of the digital transformation that disrupts increasingly more industries, and those who neglect it are likely to be outperformed by their competition sooner than later. Given the capabilities that mobile product have, it’s hardly surprising: 

  • Mobile apps can help you track the inventory in real-time. Mobile apps do not only allow customers to check the availability of products in-store - the same function can also be used by employees to stay informed and provide better customer experience. Basically, your team can check the inventory in real-time, find exact products in-store much faster, and immediately order them for the customers if the product is out of stock. 

  • Mobile apps can help you gain more control over your stores. With mobile products, you can easily gain valuable insights into the performance of your teams, as well as your stores. Real-time sales data and reports, product details or ongoing payment information are just a few features that can make the management of the store much easier in the long run. 

  • Mobile apps can help you boost your employees’ productivity. In addition to having more control, though, you can improve their productivity by streamlining workflows, reducing paperwork, educating employees, as well as enhancing connectivity and communication. As a result, your employees are able to work in a more transparent environment, and also handle more tasks with more accuracy - be it at sorting centres, warehouses, or in-store.   

Walmart - Taking mobile solutions to the next level  

Walmart might as well be leading the digital transformation in the retail realm at the moment. Among other projects, the company has been currently working on its Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) to test possibilities for the use of AI in the industry. 

Basically, IRL is set up to gather information about what’s happening inside the store through a wide range of sensors, cameras and processors. This helps Walmart’s team to keep an eye on product inventory and availability - in the near future, they will easily use real-time information to identify shortages and know exactly when to restock products. 

How is this even possible? Thanks to a combination of cameras and real-time analytics, the identified lack of products is going to automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to internal apps and alert associates when to re-stock. This way, associates won’t have to constantly look around the store to find products that are running low on the shelves - instead, they will be able to spend more time on less mundane tasks, such as helping customers. 

While on the subject of Walmart’s improvements and their involvement with mobile - it’s also worth mentioning that the company has incorporated yet another creative solution to train their employees. It might not sound like it at first, but Spark City is a simulation-style game that puts players in charge of a Walmart department, helping associates go through their training and work on their skills. It basically teaches the users how a day in the life of an hourly supervisor looks like. It’s available in the App Store and Google Play, and has been well-received by both department managers, associates, and other players.

Żabka - Managing a convenience store through the app

One of the game-changers when it comes to enterprise mobility market has also been frappka, an app created for the biggest Central and Eastern European convenience store network operating under Żabka and Freshmarket brands. 

Frappka has already gained popularity among franchisees for whom it was specifically designed - in order to make it easier to manage Żabka stores. And it’s important to note that their number is significant - there are 5500 shops present in 70% of urban and rural communities in Poland. 

Massive is also the number of events occurring every day in all Żabka’s stores - every month there are 70 million receipts. All the sales-related details, though, can be accessed through the app, presented by time periods (real-time, hour, day or month), products, categories or product accessibility in a store - which makes the overall management of the store much more simple. 

The goal behind the development of the app was to make it intuitive and convenient, presenting data in a clear way so that franchisees can have a clear overview of how well their stores are performing. Among other features, there is also a product delivery module (including delivery tracking in real-time) and a franchisee's income simulator with ongoing payment information. 

The entire process of creating such an app was also interesting. It started by gathering in-depth data from franchisees during the special workshop. Without it, designers and developers wouldn’t have been able to identify business challenges and needs, come up with solutions and validate their assumptions. In order for such a workshop to be successful, though, all the decision-makers, end-to-end users, and target group representatives needed to be present. And that’s exactly how it all began. 

Nowadays, though, Żabka disrupts the market of convenience stores in Poland in one more way. In October 2018 Żabka presented their vision of the shop of tomorrow, which, similarly to famous Amazon Go, has no employees and makes the mobile app the centre of the whole shopping experience. However, unlike Amazon Go, the products are scanned on an automatic cash register and automatically recognized by AI-powered algorithms. What is important, Żabka's shop of tomorrow is not only a vision but a ready-to-work and technologically feasible concept.

Jyve - Connecting skills and needs in the grocery industry 

Jyve is a “special” case in comparison - it’s not a retailer, but an on-demand labour platform that already operates in more than 1,400 cities in the U.S., and has 6,000+ workers performing different tasks in plenty of stores across the country. 

Why is it innovative? Instead of outsourcing the shelving and arrangement of products to the big brands that make them (and also relying on one person to drive goods to the store and take care of loading in and shelving them) -  Jyve can cut costs and divide those tasks, matching them to nearby people with sufficient skills. 

Here’s exactly how it works: when someone signs up for Jyve and downloads the app, they can browse available jobs and claim them. They start with less demanding tasks (such as moving boxes in the back room), and if they do them well - they can unlock higher-paying shelf stocking and display arrangement gigs, then product ordering and brand ambassadorship consequently.

At each step, users take photos and leave comments about their work that are reviewed by the store and brand managers, as well as Jyve’s machine vision algorithms and human quality-control team. Thanks to this complex review system built into the app, it’s easy to tell who got the job done right, deserves better opportunities and more challenging tasks. This way, Jyve fills the labour shortage and also enable people to work on specific skills and earn extra money - all thanks to a mobile app. 

Start increasing the efficiency of your store 

Mobile apps are now widely used by both end customers and retailers, who try to leverage them mostly to boost revenue. There are many more use cases in which mobile apps can be beneficial, though - which doesn’t change the fact that creating a proper app in-house is not that easy. 

In fact, 56% of enterprise decision-makers are not satisfied with the pace at which their organisation is adopting mobile applications. They lack time, resources, skills, budget, or are unable to define a comprehensive mobile strategy. In such circumstances, it may be a good idea to partner with a software development company that is experienced in developing robust and user-friendly mobile apps - especially in the retail industry. 

As a matter of fact, it sounds exactly like our description. We had a chance to develop the award-winning frappka app, among others. If that sounds like something that might interest you as well - take a look at our portfolio and get in touch to discuss a mobile strategy for your business.

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Emil Waszkowski

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