The clipboard. It wasn’t long ago that this indispensable ordering tool was chock full of order forms, scraps of paper containing customer special orders, some product flyer you may have found interesting at some point and whatever other detritus that had found its way to being pinched by that large metal clasp. As with many other low-tech retailer solutions in recent years, the clipboard has often found itself buried in a drawer collecting dust.
Technology has infiltrated the natural products industry, as it has with all other facets of our lives. POS systems have freed retailers from the price gun. The internet has given retailers a lightning-fast resource for those tricky customer questions. The marketing of your store is no longer relegated to simple store signage and maybe an ad in the local paper. But perhaps no area of a retailer’s business has been improved by technology more so than ordering and inventory control with the advent of wireless ordering scanners.
The common thread holding many of these technological advances together is the presence of a wireless network. For example, utilizing in-aisle wireless scanners allow retailers to combine the convenience of Wi-Fi with the familiarity of the mobile devices they use every day. Your iPhone can now place your vitamin order. Your android scanner can scan your shelves for end-of-year inventory. Of course, in order to utilize these make-your-life-easier tools, your store will need to be equipped with a wireless network. For some, installing a wireless network was as critical to their business as turning the lights on. But for others, this may be a store feature that has taken a bit of a backseat to other expenses.
The addition of a wireless network in your store can help increase productivity and improve overall communication. Without Wi-Fi, you and your employees are frequently tethered to a desk – submitting orders, reviewing emails, and performing other operational tasks. A wireless network allows for these tasks to be completed on the sales floor, where you can be present for your customers. With the in-aisle mobile ordering tools available now, many of these tasks can be completed on one device: ordering, inventory, emails, web-searches, etc.
The customers in your store can also benefit from the presence of a wireless network. The ability to access a guest network can improve their overall shopping experience, from reducing their cellular data plan consumption to easily accessing apps, shopping lists, product reviews and coupons. The addition of wireless can eliminate the risk that a lack of connectivity will create a negative shopping experience for your customers. The ability to market effectively to your customers can also be improved through the presence of a wireless network. Giving customers access to wireless encourages behavior conducive to business promotion and product sell-through. Digital coupons can be offered and redeemed easily through the use of email or a custom store app. Encouraging customers to “check-in” via social media can help to expand your reach to possible new customers through a variety of platforms.
An installed wireless network has become a necessity in the retail environment. Without this key business tool, you could miss out on valuable opportunities to engage with your customers and countless operational efficiency benefits. Soon the desktop computer with its wired internet will wind up in that same desk drawer, right next to that dusty clipboard. WF
Sara Smith has been a retailer, educator, and marketing executive in the natural products industry for over 20 years. She currently acts as marketing manager for GeniusCentral, the industry’s leading provider of enterprise software platforms.
Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 9/30/15