Who would argue that mobile has not been an absolutely transformative platform for retail? Communicating with consumers on a nearly 24/7 basis on a computing platform they embrace throughout their lifestyle has transformed retail marketing. E-commerce is a long ago metaphor, replaced almost entirely by m-commerce as smartphones and their larger cousin tablets overwhelm the old PC experience.
But the transformation that the mobile experience has brought to retail is about to enter another phase. For the first time ever, a mobile connected workforce is going to give brands new power for monitoring and gathering real time analytics on in-store marketing and retail execution. That notorious “last mile” of coverage that extends right up to product on the store shelf will soon no longer be that mystical, ever elusive goal.
And that’s because mobile is delivering the most promising opportunities ever for
retailers and brands to now gain real-time data around in-store execution. By leveraging an on-demand mobile workforce, retailers and consumer goods companies gain on-the-ground visibility into how their brand is appearing on the shelf. Armed with a smartphone, this on-demand workforce can report gaps in execution at the local retail level.
To date, this process has been largely monitored by pens and clipboards and left nearly untouched by the possibilities of mobile technology. Now, with the snap of the camera, brands can see if their product is out-of-stock. They can learn whether there was indeed proper execution of promotional displays. Planogram compliance can be measured while promotions are still in the store. This means less guesswork and more strategic action.
This area of mobile-enabled workers is an exciting new proposition that holds real promise for addressing the $800 billion that is lost annually to preventable issues like out-of-stocks and so much more. Crowdsourcing compliance is a major leap forward, but brands need to consider key factors when thinking about engaging this new mobile paradigm:
Data Analysis: Data that isn’t actionable can stop you dead in your tracks. Even the greatest data set loses all its value if it just sits on a server where no one has the time to access or analyze. Make sure you have the right analytics capabilities or that the company you’re working with has them. Don’t fall into the trap of gathering a ton of information, but not having an intelligent means to interpret and generate learnings for your organization.
Collaborate: When you are talking about acting on hyperlocal information you are probably looking at reaching deeper into your organization than you ever have before. It is essential that the data you gather from a deployed workforce can be shared and routed to people who can swiftly take action. And most importantly, think about how your organization will respond once this data is captured. If store shelves need to be stocked do you have field managers or reps in the data loop so they can execute against this information? Are there third parties who need to be in the data loop so they can execute?
Smartphone army: Traditionally, crowdsourcing is more of a tactic that is used to gather data. I like to refer to this type of crowdsourcing as building a “smartphone army,” or a network of mobile enabled independent contractors. Consider in advance what kind of data you want this army to collect. Because the real value here is in the information this smartphone army can send back to you.
The data that comes back to these businesses can help guide so much more than simply restocking orders. This data provides real opportunities for brands to ensure the in-store experience for customers is powerful and effective. And it’s also an opportunity to ensure the billions invested every year in in-store promotion is invested wisely and drives the right return for retailers and brands.
And all this data acquisition and analysis can be done more cost effectively than in the past. The Smartphone Army comes without big salaries and benefits, and this Army already paid for their own weapons – their smartphone. The mobile device is the only thing they need to gather and send this data. That’s some pretty amazing computer power that can measurably improve in-store execution, driving sales for both retailers and brands.