From big-box retailers to major grocery stores, and many more well-known brands besides, national retailers are flocking to the same smart strategy — implementing wireless retail store-in-store outlets and kiosks. These big-box and major grocery retailers all know that customer experience is key, and keeping shoppers engaged and happy in-store is an essential part of successful retail. If that means the customer can buy and activate their new smart device at the same time as shopping for groceries, home office supplies, or other electronics, that’s a win for everybody.
But how does a national retailer launch a series of in-store wireless outlets successfully, when they may have little to no experience of operating in this highly complex retail vertical? After all, with factors such as multiple carrier integrations, carrier rebates, and dual POS systems to consider, there are many potential pitfalls that the retailer might not see coming.
In this whitepaper, we will examine the following:
Avoiding common pitfalls from the outset
There are many reasons for a national retailer to set up a wireless store-within-a-store program. With the pandemic prompting a massive surge in e-commerce adoption for groceries, electronics, clothing, and almost any vertical you can think of, retailers with brick-and-mortar locations are looking for ways to recover market share. Shoppers are now demanding new levels of convenience, and retailers offering a one-stop shop for all their needs will inevitably capture more engagement. Above all, a store-in-store strategy must be about offering the customer the best possible retail experience to ensure they come back time and again.
However, a national retailer setting up a wireless store-within-a-store program will inevitably face a series of challenges to overcome. They need a retail management system and point of sale that is specifically designed to power telecom sales, as the system used in primary retail store will invariable not offer the features necessary for complex wireless sales and activations.
Primarily, the national retailer needs a technology system that integrates with the multiple carriers whose rate plans they will be selling, and offers complete reconciliation for the discounts on the devices sold with rate plans. It also must provide inventory management solutions, so the management of inventory at the wireless kiosk can be separate from the main store’s inventory if required. Plus, the retailer needs this highly specialized RMS and POS to integrate seamlessly into its primary store’s own systems, so they can separately process device sales, take payments, and reconcile sales internally.
Drawing on decades of wireless knowledge
In addition to these advanced technological solutions, the primary retailer needs to work with a best-in-class provider to rely on as a trusted partner on their journey into the wireless sector. In the early days of the partnership between primary retailer and technology provider, there needs to be a period of consultation and knowledge-sharing before the hard work begins.
Kristen Scott, Client Manager at iQmetrix, agreed, “The main reason our national retailer clients come to us is because of our experience in wireless retail. These retailers are taking on a whole new industry. In doing so, they are building relationships with all the carriers, and we have a lot of experience in that area and in the language and terminology of the industry. Our clients who are new to the sector appreciate that they can draw on our two decades of experience in solving these bigger challenges — such as how you can get into wireless profitably, how to avoid the pitfalls, how to create a seamless customer experience, and lessons learned from other retailers.”
Working with an independent retail operator — or not
One early decision to make is whether the primary retailer is going to be operating the wireless kiosks inside their stores themselves, or retain the services of an independent wireless kiosk operator such as OSL or ASI, among many others.
This is another area where iQmetrix’s many years of experience is vital, explained Scott. “It’s something we at iQmetrix are very much accustomed to accommodating, but working with an independent operator is usually new to the primary retailer. And there can be challenges in the retailer giving the kiosk operator what they need to succeed, while not revealing all the confidential costs and profits to them. We are able to work with both companies and create solutions to smooth these processes.”
Who owns the technology contract?
Some national retailers choose to manage their wireless store program themselves; others opt for the white-glove service of an operator who has expertise in that area. There are pros and cons for each, but one factor remains the same: the primary retailer must ensure that they are the ones who have ownership of the technology contract, rather than an independent operator.
Sean Anderson, Client Manager at iQmetrix, said, “It’s essential for the primary retailer to own the software contract. Some retailers might choose an independent operator, and the operator will buy and implement the technology and run with it. But then, the primary retailer will often want additional features such as partner integrations, or they want data and analytics — and the software provider can’t provide those, because their contract is with the independent operator. So, the primary retailer having control of that technology contract is a must-have. And they can still hire an independent operator to run it, if they choose — that way everyone has what they need.”
There’s also nothing to worry about in terms of data getting into the wrong hands, Anderson added. “In a solution such as RQ, there are many possible security settings, so the right people have the right level of visibility into all aspects the system.”
Integrating multiple carriers and smoothing out rebates
In its wireless retail strategy, the primary retailer is faced with the daunting task of integrating not just one but multiple carriers into the wireless kiosk’s RMS to enable activations. No small feat, considering that device activations are notoriously time-consuming and often require swivel-chair data entry. The retailer needs to work with their specialist technology partner to create integrations that will make this process as smooth and seamless as possible.
For example, a typical iQmetrix carrier integration means that when a rate plan is sold, the wireless kiosk associate enters the sale into the carrier’s system, and API integrations mean that it is directly pulled into iQmetrix’s RQ point of sale system. This creates a unique invoice with all the data included. When the retailer goes to take payment in its own POS, a custom API built by iQmetrix means that simply inputting the invoice number pulls all the customer and transaction data into the retailer’s POS. This creates a smooth purchasing process with minimal data re-entry and swivel-chair activity.
Even before the implementation of the telecom-specific retail management system into the new wireless kiosks, the retailer’s technology partner should be able to guide the retailer through the complexities of various carrier agreements. And after launch, the retailer can continue bring new carriers on board to its wireless program with new integrations.
Rebate complexities eliminated
A key requirement of any retailer’s store-within-a-store program is for its new wireless retail management solution to be able to manage the wildly complex subsidies and rebates that are involved in selling discounted devices and rate plans from multiple carriers.
Scott said, “On a single device and rate plan sale, you might be tracking upwards of five different subsidy types, all depending on promotions that are going on. Plus there are upsells that could be added on, such as insurance coverage.”
Having a robust system that tracks all the phone and plan discounts that need reconciling, and allows the primary retailer to check for any discrepancies when they receive their carrier rebates, is essential.
Inventory management for products and rate plans
Having an advanced inventory management system is always an essential element of telecom retail management — but even more so when it comes to a store-within-a-store.
Andre Tagliamonte, Vice President of Business Development at iQmetrix, explained, “With the store-within-a-store model, they will be working with multiple different carrier plans and that becomes very complicated. Even when it just comes to the SKU creation of devices alone, which includes the description and the color and the memory and so on. It is a tremendous amount of work for any organization — but it’s that much harder when you have multiple carriers.
“For example, one of our major national electronics retail clients has shared with us that, when a new device is launched, like an iPhone13, there are well over 800 SKU definitions when you consider all of the carrier brands that they incorporate. So having an inventory management solution that solves for that is definitely an advantage for any retailer out there.”
Right place, right time
Another element of necessary functionality in a multi-location national retailer is being able to manage their inventory by location.
“This is a major pain point for these big-box retailers,” Tagliamonte said. “They need an inventory management solution in which, when the inventory is scanned into the wireless retail management system such as RQ, it automatically shows where the location of that inventory is and where it ends up.”
A system such as the iQmetrix inventory module manages the product lifecycle from end-to-end, keeping the primary retailer and the wireless kiosk operator (if there is one) in the know at all times. From product shipment to system updates to estimated arrival to who sold what and when, serialized and non-serialized inventory must be taken care of with a comprehensive technology solution designed for the complexities of wireless retail.
Elevating the customer — and associate — experience
Just because this is a store-within-a-store or kiosk-style retail operation doesn’t mean the customer’s expectations of an elevated experience will be any less than a regular wireless store. A shopper buying their new device at a store-within-a-store will be just as demanding when it comes to seamless online-to-in-store purchasing flows, online access to in-store availability, being able to reserve devices online, booking appointments to set up their rate plan, and so on.
The primary retailer must ensure the technology they implement for their wireless program has a full suite of omnichannel retail solutions that includes:
- Buy or reserve online, pick up in-store
- In-store product availability
- Curbside pickup
- E-commerce capabilities
- Queue management and appointment scheduling
iQmetrix offers an award-winning suite of omnichannel solutions that are an essential aspect of any store-within-a-store wireless strategy.
Add-ons and upselling opportunities
As well as this seamless brand experience, the customer in the store will also expect add-ons and options — and the retailer should be taking the best possible advantage of these upselling options. These might range from device insurance to screen protection insurance, from device after care to buy-now-pay-later financing, and more.
Additionally, the store-within-a-store is no different than a high-street wireless store in needing advanced tools for a wide variety of business functions, such as workforce scheduling, employee engagement, staff training and development, sales and marketing tools, store video data and analytics, vendor-managed accessory inventory, and many more features.
That’s where it’s essential for the retailer to choose a wireless retail management solution that comes with a wide array of partner integrations. Each one of these plug-ins offers an innovative way to improve the customer and store associate experience, the efficiency of the store operations, the ultimately profitability of the business.
The future of store-in-store wireless retail: DXP and Activation Solutions
Looking ahead, how is technology advancing right now that will affect the customer experience in store-within-a-store wireless retail?
One significant leap that will contribute to improving of purchasing journeys sooner than later is the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) — a modern technology that accelerates retailers’ ability to create optimal customer journeys using a simple low-code environment. The DXP applies business logic to take the customer along one of multiple possible paths, offering instant solutions to their various choices — all while plugging in the various carrier activation options along the way.
Tagliamonte said, “A massive pain point in telecom retail in North America is activation time — and for multi carrier retailers out there that have to service more than one carrier, it becomes very, very time consuming. It can take sometimes 40 minutes, sometimes even an hour to input all that information in various systems. The beauty of the DXP and Activation Solutions is that the purchasing journey can happen very quickly without any barriers and without any dampening of that customer journey.”
Creating a new user experience
iQmetrix has acquired DXP and Activation Solutions that will leapfrog the company’s ability to offer these advanced functions over its competitors.
Eric Eden, Product Lead at iQmetrix, who worked on the acquisition, explained, “With our new DXP and Activation Solutions, the primary retailer’s team who are designing the ideal customer experience will be able leverage APIs simply when managing multiple touchpoints. This technology investment takes iQmetrix solutions to the next level; providing retailers the key capabilities needed to efficiently manage and expand how they reach and service their customers. With our DXP investment, we accelerate the future of retail.”