Q&A: Solving the Challenges Faced by Wireless Store-Within-a-Store Operators

As a wireless store-within-a-store operator, the challenges facing your business are many and multifaceted. Creating a great experience for your customers, while integrating your processes and systems into those of your primary retailer, is complex. Added to that are the unique challenges of the telecom industry while working with multiple carriers. For many businesses, especially those new to the wireless sector, operating store-within-a-store model in telecom retail can seem like a headache within a headache.

This is where working with an expert in telecom retail management — including in the store-within-a-store space — is essential. By bringing in the right technology solutions, these headaches can be eased and a streamlined experience created for everybody.

To dive further into these challenges and find out how to solve them, we spoke to our in-house store-within-a-store expert Megan Howse, Director of Wireless and National Retail Marketing, for some invaluable insight.

Q: Megan, what are the current trends in the store-within-a-store telecom retail space? 

A: A lot of retailers across various sectors have seen store revenues declining over recent years. At the same time, what’s been happening is that retailers are seeing mobile device and rate plan sales as increasingly profitable — especially with 5G coming, and those new devices and rate plans, which have much higher profit margins. So retailers from outside the wireless sector are seeing wireless as a revenue stream that they can get into and add new revenue streams into their business. This has resulted in a few different retail segments coming into the mobile space over the past couple of years. For example, one of our retailer clients was seeing declining revenues from sales of the particular products they offer. For that client, adopting a wireless kiosk model was a way of introducing new revenue streams to its very large existing retail footprint.

Typically, these wireless kiosks are carrier-agnostic. They offer multiple rate plans from different carriers to appeal to the widest segment of customers, and that means the retailer gets the revenues from all those highly profitable rate plans.

Q: For a store-within-a-store operator, what are some of the complexities that arise with working with multiple carriers?

A: Telecom retail is highly complex to begin with, and wireless kiosks have a couple of extra layers of complexities to their retail operations — multiple-carrier integrations being one of them. Compared to regular retail such as groceries, there are many more complexities in selling a cellphone and rate plan, and in reconciling the sale back to the carrier. So, if I’m shopping in grocery store and I see a promotion on devices at the wireless kiosk, I can go up and check them out, and rather than being offered a rate plan from one particular carrier, I can decide on the best carrier, rate plan, and promotional offer for me. The kiosk operator needs to be able to integrate back to each of those carriers. In turn, each of those carriers has different complexities in how they offer those rate plans, as well as how they provide the rebate back to the retail operator.

Q: What are the best processes or systems to smooth out those multiple-carrier complexities?

A: Wireless kiosk operators come to iQmetrix because we streamline the process of integrating with the carriers and fully automated the reconciliation system, which can be very complex, to ensure the operator is getting paid for all the phones and rate plans they’ve sold in that kiosk.

Q: What are the challenges with integrating processes, technology, and data between the primary retailer and the store-within-a-store operator? 

A: For the primary retailer, the reason they’ve hired that wireless kiosk operator is to add those revenues to their bottom line. So they want to be able to see those additional sales, they want to see the inventory movement, they want to see that carrier commission. Where the complexities start is with who owns the transaction, or who owns the inventory. In some instances, you might be able to process the transaction right at the wireless kiosk; in others, you might have to go to the primary retailer’s point-of-sale to complete the transaction. There are a lot of different scenarios to accommodate, depending on the requirements. For example, some primary retailers prefer to own the inventory, some leave it to the operator to own the inventory.

Q: How do you solve those integration issues?

A: Each scenario is so different, depending on who the stakeholder is. If it’s the primary retailer coming to us, they need to work with an operator who lives and breathes wireless retail, as it’s a much more complicated sector with much more complex SKU sets than they’re used to selling. In other cases, it’s been the operator coming to us, knowing they need a robust retail management solution designed for wireless retail, as the primary retailer will use a much more generic RMS or their own software, which doesn’t accommodate for those unique complexities within wireless retail.

It also comes down to using a really strong inventory management solution, and being able to report effectively on sales and inventory — so no matter who needs that data, you have that visibility. If the primary retailer needs data on the sales processed through the kiosk, your RMS should be able to provide that. If they need data on inventory counts — especially as it can be challenging to stock a small kiosk and know what inventory you have on hand — the RMS should be able to provide that data. Or if the primary retailer or kiosk operator wants to understand carrier commissions and what they are owed on their vendor rebates, they would want that data, depending on who is doing that reconciliation. If the operator is doing that, the primary retailer will want insight into how much the operator is making so they can be sure of charging them correctly on top of that.

Q: How do you streamline reporting, data, and analytics between the primary retailer and kiosk operator?

A: On the sales side of things, let’s say the primary retailer has transactions going through their regular POS as well as sales going through their wireless kiosk — they want to be able to view combined sales totals from those two different POS systems. That can either be at one retail location, or across multiple locations. There can also be added complexities where, for example, the primary retailer owns the device inventory at the kiosk, but the kiosk operator owns add-on inventory such as accessories. Being able to combine those different SKU sets and make sure everyone has visibility is essential. There’s also data on inventory-on-hand costs. So in the scenarios where the kiosk operator controls the inventory, the primary retailer still needs to see the data on the total of their inventory-on-hand costs of all their SKU sets, including within the wireless kiosk.

Q: What are some of the other challenges and how can they be solved?

A: Another issue is with customer loyalty programs and promotions. Let’s say I’m a regular customer of the primary retailer, and I have a loyalty card. If the wireless kiosk is operated separately, they need to integrate with the primary retailer’s loyalty program so I get my discount or promotion. Your retail management system should be able to provide for this integration so that it’s a seamless experience for the customer. Pricing control is another issue your RMS should solve, so if the primary retailer is setting prices, the kiosk operator needs to be able to pull that aggregated data.

Finally, a big complexity is for the store associates to be able to understand the different carrier offerings. Even in a regular wireless storefront, it can be a challenge to train associates to be able to understand that one carrier’s offering and all its rate plans. With a store-within-a-store, an associate has to understand all the plans of maybe four or five different carriers, which can be really challenging. Having an easy-to-use interface where the sales associate can see all the different plans on offer is essential, so they can understand all those plans and be able to sell them effectively.

When facing all the above challenges, it is imperative to use an intelligent retail management solution specifically designed to power wireless retail. For many retailers, operating in the wireless space is a new venture, and you’ll need an expert industry partner to navigate you through the complexities.

Learn more about iQmetrix’s store-within-a-store retail solutions by clicking on the link below.