Wearables are hot right now, if only for the novelty factor. But they’re useful, too, and research firm Gartner predicts that the market for wearables in the workplace is going to blow up fast – exceeding 91 million shipments by 2016. Mobile tech is already gaining a foothold in retail as more stores and even independent sellers retire old fashioned registers in favor of tablets loaded with POS apps and paperless email receipts.
It only makes sense to start exploring the utility of both tablets and wearables now, before customer expectations evolve and while it’s still easy to get free data for tablets with companies like T-Mobile. Some customers may be momentarily nonplussed by new technologies in a traditional retail setting but chances are that these gadgets will start to feel familiar in no time at all. Soon it won’t be unusual to see tablets and wearables tech in retail:
Supporting the back office & the corner office
A Galaxy Note5 or other tablet can give managerial associates instant access to real time sales figures, inventory data and marketing information, potentially streamlining inventory management, labor efficiency and overall performance. On the sales floor, sales associates with tablets can check inventory for customers without leaving them unattended. And executives with smartwatches can track it all from anywhere.
Streamlining the customer experience
Imagine a shopping experience that is essentially transaction free from browsing to buying. Customers pick their purchases and with the help of RFID and mobile payment technology implemented on a smartwatch or other wearable device, pay automatically as they walk out the door.
Making marketing feel more personal
Traditional advertising can’t hold a candle to personalized marketing delivered in the right place at the right time. Targeted messages can be sent to customers already in the neighborhood offering incentives open only to those who walk through a store’s doors within the next few hours. Similarly, certain promotions might be only available to customers who allow real-time marketing on their wearable devices.
Gathering big data at a granular level
Wearables and to a lesser extent mobile devices like tablets are the perfect always-on tools for gathering granular data like shopping frequency, length of visit, value of items purchased, basket size and browsing habits. With this information retailers can devise strategic promotions, market more effectively to individual demographics and even create better store layouts.
Enhancing employee communication
Seamless cross-store communication between sales staff, managers, stockers and cashiers is possible with wearables. The days of muffled loudspeaker calls for assistance will soon be behind us as wearables make it easy to locate employees and pass information between departments. Wearables may even facilitate studies of timework and employee interaction patterns leading to HR optimization.
The wearables and mobile markets are coming into their own with product improvements inspiring increased customer interest and familiarity. Don’t wait to see how other retailers fare before implementing a technology strategy that includes these kinds of devices in customer-facing and support roles. The key is to experiment, to fail fast and quickly get a handle on what resonates with your unique customer base. And if you discover what turns them off in the process, you can quickly adapt in response. Remember that for good or ill, people notice novel gadgets. Appearing to be on the cutting edge can give retailers a boost over competition and consumer experience still using technology that looks outdated in comparison.