Empowered customer service is effective customer service—or so the thinking goes in the omnichannel era. And Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies are the latest to empower associates by bringing information technology to the retail sales floor.
BYOD allows store employees and others to use their own personal devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops at work. With their own equipment, employees can access information in real time and use it to answer customer questions and complaints.
Implemented effectively, BYOD creates an annual average value of $1,650 per employee, according to Cisco Consulting Services. In addition, offering BYOD can help recruit and train employees accustomed to 24/7 connectivity. “They don’t want to have to carry multiple devices to experience the benefits of mobility at work,” the study says.
Success in retail “depends on broad-ranging collaboration, accelerated innovation, and employees who are empowered and productive every step along the way—from product development, to merchandising and sourcing, to store management and customer service.”
Big benefits in retail
The market for BYOD strategies in North American retail is expected to almost triple from $29.5 billion in 2014 to $89.6 billion by 2019, thanks to the many benefits it offers in sales and management.
BYOD allows sales reps to use tablets and smartphones to furnish customers with the latest information about inventory, delivery times and promotions.
Luxottica, parent company of Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters, uses BYOD to let workers find and ship inventory.
“The ability to remotely manage mobile devices that are remotely located in stores and distribution centers is critical,” said Christian Conway, director of strategic retail accounts for Luxottica tech partner VMWare, at NRF 2015.
BYOD can boost management productivity by helping integrate operations such as staff scheduling across devices, and also helps companies save money by avoiding distribution of dedicated devices to a retail workforce that turns almost 100% every year, on average.
Employees often prefer to use devices to which they’ve grown accustomed, too. Chicago-based interiors retailer Holly Hunt, for instance, installed a BYOD plan in stores and warehouses after employees asked to use their own devices instead of company-issued BlackBerries.
“Our employees’ requests for new enterprise-connected mobile devices sparked our interest to look at how we could implement a BYOD program into our corporate structure, while leveraging new mobile devices and their enterprise apps to bring additional advantages,” said Neil Goodrich, Holly Hunt’s director of Business Analytics and Technology, in a release.
Coping with security concerns
There are security risks inherent in opening a company network to external devices, of course. In the U.K., where BYOD is catching on faster, one-quarter (25%) of retailers allow employees to use personal devices on company networks without a formal policy in place, says Intrinsic Technology — a big risk to data security and corporate networks.
“Retailers are seeing the benefits of allowing employees to use their own devices, with increased productivity and cost reduction both appealing,” said Steve Browell, CTO of Intrinsic Technology. “However, if security isn’t formalized, businesses are playing a dangerous game.”
With little control over employee devices, companies can’t be sure they have the latest security measures installed. Employee-owned devices can pick up malware and viruses off-network that can transfer to internal systems when connected.
BYOD devices can also be lost or stolen, employees can leave the company with access to proprietary information, or mobile systems can be hacked remotely. A formal policy should cover all scenarios if a retailer wants to move forward with a BYOD strategy.
Mobile device management (MDM) procedures governing and monitoring device use can limit risks. A layered security approach that includes device identification, malware protection, and “geofencing” can help keep personal and corporate data separate.
“While BYOD often enables a more efficient and productive workplace, businesses cannot ignore the additional risk of unknown devices connecting to corporate networks,” said ThreatMetrix CTO Andreas Baumhof.
“Ensuring that every device can be safely used in the workplace is a challenge. However, implementing robust BYOD policies and cybercrime prevention solutions can stop cybercriminals in their tracks and protect sensitive data.”