Survival Guide for Telecom Retailers:
How to optimize store operations and customer experiences
Telecom retail isn’t just a competitive place to do business, it’s a battlefield.
Other small stores, convenient online platforms, and big-box one-stop-shops are looking for customers to capture and if they do, your store is in danger of losing out – big time.
To help you through the woods, you need a trusted guide; the kind that knows the retail forest inside and out. iQmetrix leads the way! Consult this guide to not only survive, but to thrive in telecom retail.
It’s been an incredible decade for the telecommunication industry, since Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPhone in 2007. That was the game changer for the cell phone industry. Apple created a new need that consumers didn’t even realize they had and fulfilled it by making a cell phone that was far more than a communication tool. Suddenly, there was a single, handheld device that, at the touch of a button or two, could magically connect us not only with friends and family, but also to a world of entertainment and the World Wide Web.
Since then, one needs to look no further than their own pocket, purse, or home to know that mobility and wireless connectivity have become a way of life. A way of life that continues to push the limits for wireless carriers, retailers, and distributors to meet an escalating demand. According to the 2020 CITA Annual Wireless Industry Survey, there are 442.5 million US wireless subscriptions, which is up over 20 million year over year.
Putting that into perspective, that means an average of 1.3 devices for every American.2
Looking back on how far we’ve come in just a decade, and knowing what’s on the horizon (think Internet of Things and billions of connected devices), the future is very bright for telecom retailers, if they can keep up with the speed of innovation and consumer expectations. It will be survival of the fittest.
Chapter 1: Survival of the Fittest
Mobility - friend or foe?
It’s ironic in some ways. The popularity of mobile devices created a boom in the telecom retail space, especially for those with great product selection and exper-tise. Yet these same retailers are having a very hard time keeping up in a mobile-first world where consumers demand access to information any time, anywhere. Above and beyond fulfilling the needs of a population addicted to mobile in their day-to-day lives, the demand for mobility in business is becoming a new norm as well, especially in retail.
So, what’s a retailer to do? The more things change, the more they stay the same. It always comes down to delivering exceptional, memorable customer experiences.
“One of the fastest ways to occupy the part of the consumer’s brain that retailers want to occupy most — where brand and emotion become associative and inseparable — is to establish human connection.” 3
The speed of consumer adoption of new technologies is forcing everyone’s hands to keep up. Wireless carriers are constantly innovating, launching new products and features, and directly targeting customers. Product life-cycles are becoming shorter, and plans are becoming more complex for multiple users and devices. All the while, legacy systems are handcuffing store managers and employees alike because new and accurate information is hard to find, and serving customers at the point of sale is taking longer and longer (averaging about 30 minutes to complete a transaction).
It’s hard to keep up with the evolution of smartphones
• Technology breakthroughs
• Faster networks
• Shorter product life-cycles
• New features and apps
• Data services and plans
The competition is heating up
As the popularity and demand for mobility continues to grow, so does the competitive landscape. It’s a showdown, with service providers and retail outlets popping up on what feels like every corner, in every shape and size. Whether it’s the direct competitor across the street, the carrier’s kiosk in the middle of the mall, big box retailers, wholesale food clubs, or online targeting, competition is fierce.
And why not? Telecommunications revenue is forecasted to grow by over a $100 billion, driven by mobile data services alone. Mobile data service revenue will grow from US$130.4 billion in 2019 to US$211.7 billion by 2024.4 With tens of millions of consumers out there who will be looking to upgrade to or add to their mobile device collection or mobile rate plan, opportunities abound.
Chapter 2: Beyond Mobile POS - Adjusting for the tectonic shift in wireless retail
It’s a new now
In the early days of cell phone adoption, consumers had a lot to learn and depended on store associates to guide them towards the right device, what features they needed, how to get the best deal, and the right plan. Now consumers are in control. With cell phones and smart phones becoming a vital part of daily personal, school, and work life, they are far more informed about the devices and plans available to them. They’ve done product and price comparisons online, likely have a preference for iOS or Android devices, have a good idea of their data usage, and are being influenced with targeted offers luring them with “free phones” if they switch.
By the time they visit a store, they already have some idea of what they want, and depend on store associates to validate their research and fill in the missing information. There’s a lot of work involved in choosing a new device to manage one’s daily life, so trust is essential. Unfortunately, it isn’t realistic to expect an employee to be an expert about every carrier, every plan, every product’s strength and weaknesses, and all the accessories that go with them.
In addition, wireless retailers have specific requirements at the point of sale, such as handling trade-ins, upgrades, pre-paid and post-paid contracts, service agreements, commissions - each of these requiring knowledge of multiple systems and procedures. It’s understandable why customer frustration may start to set in.
Customers visit a wireless retailer for several reasons:
• Past experiences
• Convenient location
• Product selection
• Exclusive deals
They aren’t the only ones. Employees are increasingly frustrated because they need that information to be easily available and accessible in order to make their jobs easier and let them shine in their interactions with customers. To go above and beyond, serving more customers more knowledgeably, and making a difference by proposing offers and up-sells that are better suited to the customer’s needs.
Every customer interaction is a make or break moment. When done right, it’s a highlight reel; a true differentiator and competitive advantage.
|“According to JD Power, in the first half of 2020, brick and mortar stores accounted for 63% of retail stores.” 5|
On the horizon
With almost every Canadian and U.S. citizen already connected, the growth of new mobile subscriptions will inevitably start to stagnate, so carriers are constantly trying to improve, innovate, and stay relevant. They’re focused on improving customer service, optimizing operations, and finding new ways to generate revenue. All of which will ultimately have a trickledown effect on retailers.
According to Deloitte6 , we can expect an enormous wave of change in the next few years.
The promise of a 5G network to deliver more speed, greater efficiency, and less latency. With the launch of 5G enabled devices, increasing 5G network coverage and the start of real customer adoption of 5G mobile technology, competition is fierce as carriers rush to attract and retain customers by offering unlimited rate plans.
With these new opportunities and threats for carriers, the question is: how do we find ways to survive and thrive?
The solution is next-generation technology that improves customer experience. By integrating retail channels including online and in-store channels, improving inventory management, having visibility into customer data and insightful analytics with modern retail management solutions, it will be a clear path to optimized retail operations and more profitable business.
Chapter 3: A compass to comprehensive retail management
Retailers need to define their customer’s entire path to purchase, and identify the gaps in their ability to serve customers in a timely and helpful way - gaps resulting from legacy POS systems that were built to handle the problems of old (not the new normal) and inefficient store operations because multiple systems don’t talk to each other.
There are two critical elements in managing a modern retail business: centralization and automation. Exceptional next-generation retail management solutions on the market enable them to do that by integrating with the key components of their retail business in a single platform: POS, CRM, Inventory Management, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Reporting and Analytics, even Sales and Service Automation. For wire-less retailers, other ideal capabilities include partner integrations that offer services like handset trade-in, bill payment, and handset protection at the point of sale.
“Top performers understand the entire customer journey much better than their peers (20% vs. 6%) and had much better processes for capturing customer insights and using them in marketing programs to improve overall performance (30% vs. 11%).”7
This chapter will explore four ways in which comprehensive retail management solutions help steer business in the right direction, to meet the needs of ‘now’ and to be ready for the exciting ‘next’ for wireless retailers in a mobile-first world.
1. Streamlined operations
2. Faster, more effective customer experiences
3. Educated, engaged, and empowered employees
4. Access to accurate, real-time information
Key considerations when adopting new retail management solutions
• Ease of use
• Customer support
• Core functions
1) Streamlined operations
Being more relevant to customers requires a 360-degree view of the business. From back-end operations, employee performance metrics, and the impact of marketing campaigns on customer acquisition and retention, to store-by-store KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), inventory management and new product offerings, without a holistic view, managers can’t make insightful decisions to optimize storefront operations. They can’t forecast correctly. They can’t ensure each store is staffed appropriately. And they certainly can’t follow the customer journey across channels and touchpoints.
Impeding this are legacy systems that may be best-of-breed to solve one specific problem (point of sale, inventory, CRM, accounting, marketing, and HR) but handcuff today’s retailers who need a unified view of all this information, working in sync and accessible across all stores, franchises, and channels.
Retail management capabilities to look for
• A platform that can manage the unique, complicated product structures of wireless retail
• Ability to manage the complex reconciliations of commission and stock
• Wireless partner integrations that offer services like handset trade-ins, bill payment, and handset protection
• Dynamic tools to manage staff incentives and rewards
• A modern interface for ease of use and enthusiastic user adoption
• The ability to standardize business processes and reporting across regions, stores, franchises, etc.
• Easy access to performance insights and actionable data
• An open API for easy back-end and front-end integrations such as payment processing, vendor managed inventory, biometric security, etc.
2) Faster, more effective customer experiences
Customers expect speed, convenience, and choice when they’re shopping in-store, just like what they’ve become accustomed to online. The checkout process at the point of sale in a wireless retailer can be more complex than most, and can be painfully long if employees need to look up information in various systems or wait for information from third parties. Reducing wait times and speeding up transaction times are vital components of a successful customer experience, ensuring they leave your stores delighted, and employees remain motivated.
|46% of consumers said ease of checkout would make their in-store experience better. 8 Almost 70% of retail high performers cite mobile POS as high value technology for their retail operations. 9|
How to excel and propel customer experiences
• Centralized customer data allow for personalized service based on history, what accessories they already have, where they are in their contracts, etc.
• Accurate inventory, product linking, and suggestive selling to instantly present the most relevant offerings
• Access to endless aisle inventory ensures customers never leave the store empty-handed, even if it means having items shipped from another location
• Activation wizards guide store associates through the sales process providing product information, recommended accessories, and relevant promotions
• Mobile POS enables employees to have more personal interactions and speed up the process by eliminating wait times at the counter
• Integrated payment processing speeds up transaction time and allows for information to be in the POS.
3) Educated, engaged, and empowered employees
Employees are brand ambassadors, so providing them with the means to excel is among the most important investments a retailer can make. There are two ways to do that: modern, intuitive tools and access to information, and motivation by management. Both stem from the capabilities outlined in the previous two sections.
1. Tools that enable employees to speed up the checkout process and provide accurate and relevant information to every customer, every time.
2. The holistic view, giving management the insight necessary, based on store and employee performance, to make improvements and adjustments wherever and whenever needed.
How modern retail management systems can power employee excellence:
• Less time spent on common, redundant tasks like calculating commissions, reconciling vendor rebates, and ordering inventory
• Automated scheduled follow-up calls and renewal reminders to ensure customer satisfaction and retention
• Simplified processing with automated carrier reconciliation, phone activation wizard, warranty tracking, and other features specifically for wireless retail
• Automated inventory management to easily view real-time information, manage stock balancing, regional optimization and automated ordering
• The ability to easily set up, assign, and view prioritized tasks, activities, and follow-ups
• Modern interface and personalized workspaces to instantly view important information
• Ease of use to speed up the learning curve for existing staff and to train new employees
4) Access to accurate information and real-time analytics
In an arena where customers are in control and retailers are in catch-up mode in terms of innovation, finding the means to be more proactive and relevant in customer experiences is a powerful advantage. Information is power. Data is the fuel, and retailers need to access that intelligence to react quickly to increasing customer expectations and changing market demands. What used to take weeks or months to analyze can now be done in days, even hours.
How to power top-line and bottom-line performance improvements:
• Easily identify and track KPIs for individual stores, and make necessary adjustments to optimize operations and customer service
• Gain complete transparency into store operations to see what’s happening in the business, why it’s happening, and how it all fits together
• Monitor employee performance and identify what successful employees are doing differently
• Access real-time inventory levels down to the SKU to make sound inventory stocking and replenishment decisions
• Gain insights with stats, trends, and patterns, and use that information to make informed decisions
• Automate and schedule reports, and set up emails to share with all relevant personnel
Taking Wireless Retail Beyond the POS –Survival Checklist
In summary, retail has changed forever in a mobile-first world, and telecom retailers are in the best position to profit from this new normal. But old tech-nology is impeding the ability to keep up and give customers the experiences they demand. It’s time to consider modernizing the retail management solutions with next-generation systems that present a comprehensive solution to manage all key components of the busi-ness: POS, CRM, Inventory Management, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Reporting and Analytics, even Sales and Service Automation.
With a unified, centralized view into customers and the business as a whole, carriers will have the insights they need to make intelligent decisions for opti-mizing store operations. With automated processes and access to information, employees will have the tools they need to speed up the purchase process and give more customers exceptional experiences.
25 ways to optimize stores and meet modern customer demands
|Centralized customer data allow for personalized service based on history, what accessories they already have, where they are in their contracts, etc.|
|Ability to manage the complex reconciliations of commission and stock.|
|Wireless partner integrations that offer services like handset trade-ins, bill payment, and handset protection|
|Dynamic tools to manage staff incentives and rewards|
|A modern interface for ease of use and enthusiastic user adoption|
|The ability to standardize business processes and reporting across regions, stores, franchises, etc.|
|Easy access to performance insights and actionable data|
|An open API for easy back-end and front-end integrations such as payment processing, biometric security, marketing automation, etc.|
|Centralized customer data allow for personalized service based on history, what accessories they already have, where they are in their contracts, etc.|
|Accurate inventory, product linking, and suggestive selling to instantly present the most relevant offerings.|
|Access to endless aisle inventory ensures customers never leave the store empty-handed, even if it means having items shipped from another location.|
|Activation wizards guide store associates through the sales process providing product information, recommended accessories, and relevant promotions.|
|Mobile POS enables employees to have more personal interactions and speed up the process by eliminating wait times at the counter.|
|Less time spent on common, redundant tasks like calculating commissions, reconciling vendor rebates, and ordering inventory.|
|Automated scheduled follow-up calls and renewal reminders to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.|
|Simplified processing with automated carrier reconciliation, phone activation wizard, warranty tracking, and other features specifically for wireless retail.|
|Automated inventory management to easily view real-time information, manage stock balancing, regional optimization, automated ordering, and Vendor Managed Inventory.|
|The ability to easily set up, assign, and view prioritized tasks, activities, and follow-ups.|
|Modern interface and personalized workspaces to instantly view important information.|
|Ease of use to speed up the learning curve for existing staff and to train new employees.|
|Easily identify and track KPIs for individual stores, and make necessary adjustments to optimize operations and customer service|
|Gain complete transparency into store operations to see what’s happening in the business, why it’s happening, and how it all fits together|
|Monitor employee performance and identify what successful employees are doing differently|
|Gain insights with stats, trends, and patterns, and use that information to make informed decisions|
|Automate and schedule reports, and set up emails to share with all relevant personnel.|