As big-brand national retailers adjust to post-pandemic developments in shopper behavior, many are adopting new strategies and exploring additional product lines and verticals to boost profits. The pandemic led to a surge in e-commerce, however there are signs of a revival of life in the brick-and-mortar experience, with brick-and-mortar stores looking to regain market share.
Above all, retail brands have learned that customer experience is key and that shoppers demand new levels of convenience. Retailers that provide a one stop shop with omnichannel options will inevitably capture more engagement.
At the same time, consumer demand for new connected devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, smart systems, and connected wearables and hearing devices, has never been higher. This convergence has led many big box retailers, big box grocers, and other well-known retailers (think Walmart, Costco, Staples, Loblaws, etc.) to adopt the same strategy: deploy wireless POS and kiosks within their flagship stores.
But how can these retailers learn to operate a profitable wireless store within a store when they may have little or no experience in this highly complex retail vertical? It is essential to understand the potential pain points and the areas where even an experienced retailer will need specialist knowledge to navigate these pitfalls.
1. Integration of processes, technology and data.
It is not as simple as using the usual flagship store point of sale and retail management system for wireless store within a store. Telecom retailing requires highly specialized systems and technology to process transactions, manage inventory, set prices, manage carrier relationships, reconcile commissions, track rebates, specialized data and analytics, and much more. All of this information must then be integrated and tracked in the main retail management system to provide the retailer with an overview.
2. Use an independent retailer, or not?
An important initial decision is whether the major retailer will operate in-store wireless kiosks or retain the services of an independent wireless kiosk operator. Both have pros and cons, based largely on convenience and ease of operation versus control over the brand and retail experience. But whatever the decision, it is critical that the primary retailer owns the contract for the technology to be implemented in the wireless kiosk. An independent operator may have its own contractual obligations and be unable to meet the business needs of the main retailer.
3. Work with multiple telecom operators.
Even for a typical cell phone store, carrier integration can be very complex and challenging. For a store within a store, those challenges are magnified by offering a wide range of rate plans, which means working with multiple carriers. Added to that, even in a sale of a single device and rate plan, the retailer could be tracking up to five different types of subsidies, depending on the promotions at the time.
An added complexity is the various upsells that could be added, such as insurance coverage. The retailer will need an RMS that can access up-to-date rate plans from all carriers and automatically reconcile commission reports to ensure they don’t leave money on the table, as well as manage the wildly complex allowances and rebates involved in selling. discounted devices and rate plans from various carriers. The system will also need to provide seamless integration into multiple carrier systems if the retailer is to offer its customers a seamless activation experience.
4. Keep inventory management separate
High-value products like smartphones and tablets need careful management, especially in a wireless kiosk environment where there may be limited storage space and inventory will need to be stored alongside products from the main store. The retailer’s wireless retail management system will need to provide intelligent inventory management solutions so that inventory management at wireless kiosks can be kept separate from inventory at main stores.
5. Manage store personnel within a store.
As with retail inventory and management systems, it is not advisable for the retailer to merge employee management systems between the main store and wireless operations. If the kiosk is managed independently, this is not an issue, but for major retailers operating their own store within a store, it is important to keep this system separate. That said, your wireless employee management system will need to integrate with your primary retail employee systems and enable third-party authentication to streamline employee logins.
6. Resolution of new consumption behaviors.
Customers have new expectations and will expect a superior experience that enables them to begin and end their shopping journey in any retail channel they choose, even when engaging with a kiosk-style retail operation. The major retailer must ensure that the technology it deploys for its wireless program has a full suite of omnichannel retail solutions, such as e-commerce options, buy/reserve online and in-store pickup, curbside pickup, direct delivery, of queues and appointment scheduling in the store.
Additionally, new technologies in this space are creating seamless digital experience platforms and activation solutions that are transforming the customer and staff experience in the telecom retail vertical. Retailers must create as seamless an experience for their wireless kiosk customers as they do for their main-store customers; today’s high expectations will not tolerate anything less.
7. Keep up with trends and evolving technology.
The retail landscape is constantly evolving, as is the telecommunications and connected devices industry. Evaluating software and going through acquisition can be a long and tedious process for any retailer, but it can be especially challenging for a large brand. By choosing a solution with a complete integration platform from a forward-thinking specialist technology partner, large retailers can future-proof their wireless retail strategy.
Stacy Hamer is senior vice president of revenue and client operations at iQmetrix, a leading North American provider of telecommunications retail management solutions. She has been with iQmetrix since 2002, handling everything from launch to account management and business consulting to customer feedback. She now leads iQmetrix’s Revenue and Client Operations teams, which include Enterprise Sales, Account Management, Project Management, Professional Services and Support. Hamer is known for her commitment to ensuring that customers receive a great experience, achieve their goals, and benefit from the knowledge that iQmetrix’s customer support teams offer.