Retail Investment in Mobile Technology

With everything that is happening with the collapse of the world financial markets and the impact it will inevitably have on retail sales, it makes me wonder what will happen with investment in retail technology, and in particular for us, what does it me to mobile retail software sales.

For those companies in a financial position there are a lot of good reasons to make technology investments including competitive advantage, cost management/reductions, and maximizing ROI.

Reason 1: Competitive Advantage

One of the more compelling reasons to invest in technology during a market downturn is to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals.   Historically companies have trimmed IT expenditures during a recession, but take a look at the case of Best Buy during the post 9/11 contraction, The Inevitable Recession: Start Planning for the Rebound Now, which describes how Best Buy was able to leap frog past Circuit City and CompUSA.  This IT investment allowed Best buy to become the dominant player in consumer electronics.  Best Buy is also continuing this strategy with their Napster acquisition, Best Buy completes tender offer for Napster.

This is the basic strategy of leveraging an advantage to develop or extend a competitive advantage.  So look at anyone doing reasonably well in the retail space to be extending their advantage.  Take for instance Wal-Mart ignites a toy war.  Thus if you have the ability to improve your retail systems when your competitors are unable you may be able to create a sustainable strategic advantage.

Reason 2: Cost Management

When the economy is doing well and everybody is making money, management rarely cares about controlling retail costs.  However, in an economic downturn saving every penny becomes increasingly important.  In retail some of the more important ways to manage costs are reducing inventory costs, while still maintaining adequate stock levels, and reducing personnel costs.

The interesting part, is that these are the same areas that mobile technology can make a real difference.  If you want to manage your inventory levels, you first must have an accurate count of inventory.  This is where Mobile Inventory Management really makes a difference by providing accurate back of the store inventory changes (Receiving, Transfers, and Mark Out of Stock) as well as Physical Inventory and Cycle Count applications.  When combined with the store’s POS records, management has everything required to make well informed decisions.

Reason 3: Maximize ROI

In the past, deploying a new mobile application meant deploying a new mobile infrastructure (mobile terminals, mobile printers, and a wireless LAN), but with the capabilities of modern mobile terminals, adding a new application can be just a matter of loading new software on the terminal.  Thus if a company has already deployed a mobile infrastructure, they can achieve a significant follow on ROI with a small incremental investment,

In many cases this opportunity existing since retailers have deployed a new infrastructure, but have only deployed a minimal set of applications.  Often this investment was part of a DOS-to-CE migration that  was limited to redeploying existing applications with a terminal emulator.  In this scenario, there is a great opportunity to take advantage of the mobile infrastructure that is in place to deploy new mobile retail applications.

Conclusion: Time to Invest in Mobile Retail Technology

Therefore despite the difficult economic environment, it may still be time for your company to invest in Mobile Retail Technology.  A small investment now may be the strategic difference between just surviving the current business environment, and creating a long-term strategic advantage for your company.