For people who have not spent time working in retail – either on the retailer or the product manufacturer side – it always comes as a surprise that brick and mortar retail is still such a hands-on industry.

Most consumers simply don’t pay much attention to the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to stock shelves, set up displays, refill point-of-purchase materials, educate store staff with product knowledge…all the little things that make shopping the experience that consumers have come to expect.

At any given time during the week at a major retailer store, there are likely dozens of merchandisers and in-store service teams working the store, ensuring that the grand plans of the retailer and the product manufacturers are put into action.  But if you do happen to notice the people in the logoed golf shirts doing their work in store, you would likely also notice that they are often spending a good amount of time searching:  searching for product that’s supposed to be in the store, but can’t find; searching for a store associate with access to the store computer that will run them a report on sales and inventory for their product line; searching through the stacks of paper that they’re toting around, trying to sort out what’s going on.

This is time not well spent from the perspective of both the product vendor and the retailer.  When more time is spent searching for information instead of acting on it, there is clearly an opportunity to improve this with better technology.  Why is it that those same field reps can use their smartphones as consumers to do product research or price comparisons, thereby improving their consumer intelligence, but are still in the dark ages when it comes to accessing critical business information or business intelligence that they need to do their jobs?

An interesting case study is found in the case of a Tier I retailer who actually has their own consumer smartphone app that enables shoppers to scan a product’s UPC code in store and get that store’s (or a nearby store’s) real-time, on-hand stock level – a feature that’s very useful from a consumer’s perspective.  And yet this on-hand information is not generally available to their product vendors at all, never mind on their smartphones when in store, despite the fact that this kind of information is key to their replenishment and merchandising tasks.  Certainly, resourceful vendor reps might ad hoc make use of the consumer app, but the app is not meant for efficient B2B analytics and communication.

On the vendor side, it is not uncommon to find product manufacturers or sales brokers who have deployed customized wireless devices and custom software to arm their in-store teams with the information that they need to do their jobs.  While these systems may have been state-of-the-art three or even five years ago, the pace of mobile technology development has left them looking needlessly expensive and cumbersome by comparison to what is possible today with an entry-level smartphone and a well-designed app.

Smart retailers and product vendors are increasingly realizing that the same mobile technology that has empowered consumers to make better shopping decisions can now be married with the power of retail analytics to provide their in-store personnel with the real-time information they need to be more effective and efficient.   These cloud-based mobile retail analytics platforms offer an out-of-the-box solution that ensures that field teams spend their valuable time acting on the information instead wasting time trying to find it.

If you’re interested in learning how to bridge the business intelligence gap to your in-store teams, sign up for a demo of Askuity’s mobile retail analytics solution.