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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Tri-alliance targets retail mobility

Monday June 21 2010

Zebra Technologies, IBM and Motorola offer Retail Technology readers their view on the latest mobile technology trends in retailing

Zebra Technologies, IBM and Motorola offer Retail Technology readers their view on the latest mobile technology trends in retailing


Mobility has become an increasingly important technology trend that is now often central to the efficient execution of many retail business processes.


Whether the technology relates to such varied areas as field force automation, mobile point of sale (MPoS) or route accounting, a long-standing alliance between Zebra Technologies, IBM and Motorola has been focused on helping retailers realise the benefits of enterprise mobility for some time now.


Members of this ‘tri-alliance’ spoke to Retail Technology on the occasion of its annual Mobile Retailing feature about how they are helping companies harness such benefits as faster return on investment (ROI) through increased flexibility of mobile workers, reduced transaction errors, and improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Streamlining efficiencies with mobility


Alex Price, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Enterprise Mobility Business Division retail sector director at Motorola suggested that, at a high level, the growing use of mobility technologies in the retail back and front office has been driven by the need for cost savings. “It’s all about getting the optimum levels of efficiency out of the supply chain and in-store using mobile technology,” he said. “And it’s not just about data, but voice too.”


Rowan Fuller, Zebra Technologies UK business development manager, agreed that the pervasiveness of mobile technology offered retailers a myriad of efficiency options to explore, including voice-directed fulfilment systems, mobile marketing or shelf-edge printers. “We work with Motorola and IBM to bring a macro-level view of retail to the alliance,” he added, where Zebra works with the likes of Dixons, New Look, Tesco and TK Maxx.


“As the emphasis on operational efficiency is high, a number of mobility initiatives are being kicked off now that perhaps wouldn’t have happened before the recession,” added Stewart Watson, marketing manager for IBM Integrated Communications and End-User Service. “On the one hand, such initiatives can

help reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. But, on the other, it can help provide an advantage in a fiercely competitive market.” This double-edged sword approach is what is now needed in order to maximise competitive advantage during the recovery from the global recession.


Connecting up retail processes


Michael Reck, IBM EMEA alliance manager said a key part of the alliance’s work was to engage early with key customers, from business and technological points of view. “We look to actively participate in technology change around the ‘connected retailer’ through a broad ecosystem of partner developments and engagements,” he said.


Looking at the different areas of a retail operation, Price pointed to the gains that can be made with mobility in-store. MPoS, for example, he said could be used to “make the shopping experience less painful through queue-busting or, combined with RFID [radio frequency identification], to create a special shopping experience and connection with the retailer”.


Watson added that retailers could get the best out of the latest mobile technologies by combining them with existing technology investments to produce optimised business processes across their operations. “It’s about identifying those technologies and processes and being able to roll them out across a network of stores, distribution centres,” he said. “The value of the alliance is that it plays to unique strengths of each alliance partner and brings those individual capabilities together in a way that creates new value for our clients.”


Building the right solutions


Fuller added: “Customers can buy any combination of hardware and software for improved customer satisfaction in-store, store productivity, inventory efficiency or any other of processes at macro level.” He likened the tri-alliance to a ‘Lego blocks’ analogy to deliver best-of-breed solutions, which Price took up.


“The clever bit is not taking the building blocks of mobility and modifying them – retailers don’t have the time or resources. It’s how you arrange them, with the help of standards,” said Price.


“The alliance provides key expertise and technology to suit retail needs that come in a variety of shapes and sizes,” concluded Fuller. “We put them together to deliver the results each retailer wants to achieve.”