Why BYOD Is The Next Frontier in Retail

By Amanda Nadile - March 21, 2019

Bring your own device (BYOD) – specifically smartphones – emerged as a workplace trend around 2013 when enterprise employee demographics began skewing millennial. While there were naysayers and champions for BYOD programs, many businesses went forward with a roll-out because of the benefits: flexible working, better work/life balance, and greater productivity.

Retail is one industry that didn’t immediately adopt the trend. Brands were committed to their tried and true systems in stores – cash registers, desktop computers, scanners…you name it. But things have changed. Mobile devices are breaking down the four walls of retail from every angle.

A new report from BRP found 63 percent of consumers rely on mobile phones while shopping in-store to compare prices, search for offers and coupons, and check inventory, among other things. If they can’t access or retrieve what they need online, they’ll go to a store associate. In fact, 83 percent of shoppers expect retailers to provide store associates with devices so they can quickly look up information.

In-Store Mobility

So, what are the options for bringing devices to the store floor? There are a few strategies retailers can take.

  1. System Swap: Company-provided devices to replace the number of point of sale systems i.e. two devices if there were two computers.
  2. Shared Devices: Company-provided devices assigned to all store associates while on duty, which they would return at the end of a shift.
  3. Unique Personal Devices: Company-provided devices that store associates would bring home and care for (similar to a company laptop).
  4. BYOD: Unique devices owned by the store associate, with a personal data plan.  

There is value in introducing any number of devices to the in-store experience. First, having a mobile device enables store associates to be alongside customers and not tethered to a cash wrap. Because they’re small enough for employees to carry around with them, it opens up the opportunity for more meaningful associate-customer interaction.

Even more, according to Frost & Sullivan “using portable devices for work tasks saves employees 58 minutes per day while increasing productivity by 34 percent.”

Additionally, there is the opportunity to include LTE backup on devices, in case of Wi-Fi or connectivity issues. As few as one device can keep a store up and running in a bad situation, ensuring customers don’t leave empty-handed or unhappy.

Reaching the BYOD Tipping Point

While the above strategies are all progressive and in the name of service, now is the time to explore a BYOD strategy in retail. There are definitely considerations as it relates to security and use. However, the perceived benefits can help store teams deliver the seamless shopping experiences consumers expect.

  • Productivity: A Dell study found 61 percent of Gen Y and 50 percent of 30+ workers believe the tech tools they use in their personal lives are more effective and productive than those used in their work life. To start, there is no learning curve with a BYOD device. It’s a device your associate knows and loves, so they will not need extensive onboarding or training to perform at peak levels.
  • Motivation: If you’re looking for strong talent in a competitive market, having a BYOD policy might be exactly what you need to draw prospective employees in the door. People today are attached to their phones, and take pride in the device in their hand. When you welcome personal devices in the brand experience, you demonstrate trust – which can motivate store associates to take an active role in the success of your store.
  • Speed: When your store associates have mobile devices, they instantly become a point of sale and living website. They can help any customer with any need, from anywhere in the store. Customers don’t have to wait in line to check out, and store associates don’t have to wait for other devices to free up to be of service. It’s the convenience and efficiency of online shopping but in the physical world.

Another advantage of BYOD (not related to the customer experience) is care. The industry shows lower theft and breakage rates with personal devices. And, more overall attention and care is given to a personal device than a shared one because of the greater sense of ownership.

The Uberization of the Store Associate

The BYOD market is on course to hit $367 billion by 2022, up from just $30 billion in 2014. Its popularity and adoption continue to surge as mobile becomes the center of work and play – shopping included. Mobile is critical to the future of retail. Consumers expect access to real-time information and demand a high level of brand support.

It’s like Uber – drivers need their own smartphones to do their job, and so do retail store associates.