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The Future of Retail

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The bright lights of New York provided the perfect backdrop for innovative mobile technology giant Motorola Solutions to launch its latest technology aimed at improving the retail experience for retailers and consumers alike.

Last week, the company unveiled a number of products at its ‘Future of Retail’ event which allow the retailer to interact more readily with tech-savvy customers and use existing data and information to better connect store associates with shoppers.

These new products follow months of discussion with a multitude of retail customers across the world as Motorola and its partners including Deloitte, Stella Nova and US retailer Home Depot surveyed senior clients and retail CEOs to discover what their current technological needs and future aspirations were.

Jim Welch, Senior Vice President of Sales & Field Operations in North America for Motorola Solutions, explained that for retailers, making decisions on which technology to implement is increasingly challenging.

“If you’re a Chief Information Officer (CIO), the ability to make decisions on all of these technologies gets complicated and can be challenging,” he told the conference.

“However, from what we have seen so far, the individual within retail who is able to embrace technology sees a significant impact on their business. There are really three things that we hear from our retail customers on a weekly basis: one is connection to the customer, two is employer productivity and the third is the ability to hit targets by ensuring operational excellence.

“Different retailers and different customers may word their desires differently, but that’s the consistent message that we hear.”

Welch noted that Motorola Solutions spends around $1 billion (£642.9 million) annually on research and development and that its most recent survey found that one of the primary concerns for retailers is educating their workforce to use in-store technology in front of customers in order to provide a more seamless link between online and offline offerings.

However, at a time when budgets are squeezed and stores are seeing an increase in staff turnover, extensive training in new technology is not a viable option for the majority. Motorola Solutions believes that offering these associates, who likely use smartphones within their personal lives, easy to use hand-held technology will empower them to converse with customers as genuine experts.

The SB1, or Smart Badge, is one such item that allows the store employee to live up to customer expectations, arming them with access to details on what products are in stock and at what price as well as other product information including the origins of the item.

This has clear benefits to the customer though also helps the Store Manager to oversee staff productivity more efficiently and allows metrics to be applied to staff performance. The SB1, which is to be rolled out across a number of UK retailers from next month, allows users to connect with Managers in real time, accept tasks delegated through the service and offers a push-to-talk feature that enables connectivity between employees.

The Product Development team at Motorola Solutions explained that extensive work has gone into considering all aspects of the back office advantages of such products. Ian Jenkins, Director of Enterprise Products, told Retail Gazette that the team, which was established twenty years ago, works hard to encourage lateral thinking in its designers.

He said: “Our team is comprised of researchers as well as industrial designers who create the vision of the retailers’ words and requirements. Human factors are very important to our team as its not just about making things safe but about making things that people can be highly productive with and like using.

“The fastest growing part of our team is the User Interface & User Experience team; durability and usability are all equally important as you can have a beautiful product with the fastest processor but if no one is able to use it and it doesn’t solve the retailer’s problem then it is not a successful product. So it must have everything, there is no hierarchy of needs as it is all important to us.”

In terms of current retail needs, the company also introduced the MC40 Enterprise Assistant, which allows the store associate to find detail on product information, data collection and MPOS while with the shopper, improving customer service and reducing the ever-growing risk of a dissatisfied customer going elsewhere.

Curt Croley, Senior Director of the Holtsville-based team points out that, while many retailers admit that losing customers due to poor customer service or a lack of fluidity between their on and offline presence is a key concern, each retailer has individual requirements which must be addressed.

“This is a golden age of opportunity for us as designers to provide solutions to our customers - we have the best job in the company,” he told Retail Gazette.

“Our team works with retailers side by side and observes their processes for days on end. Part of our purpose for doing that is not about coming up with the next product but rather innovating around their business.”

So the future of retail involves catering to the needs of individual companies while providing a far-reaching and all-encompassing solution to ever-changing shopper behaviour and expectations.

Croley added: “Our products are now an extension of the retailers brand. It is about the end to end experience and that is our value proposition to our customers.”

Published on Monday 25 June by Editorial Assistant

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