Preparing To Mobilize The Retail Workforce

Exclusive Q&A with Frank Riso, Senior Director,
Global Retail Lead, Motorola

In its annual holiday study, Motorola took a new approach to its traditional consumer survey, questioning store associates as well as consumers. The resulting responses from 545 store associates were enlightening for the retail industry, according to Frank Riso. In a recent Q&A with Retail TouchPoints, Riso shared his perspectives on the study results, as well as his outlook for mobility in retail.

Retail TouchPoints: What were your goals for this year’s holiday survey?

Frank Riso: This year was a little different than in the past. This year we surveyed store associates in addition to shoppers. We were looking to understand their experiences and attitudes toward the use of in-store technologies. Because of so many things happening with regard to the consumers and the staff in the store ― those are the kinds of things that were quite revealing in the survey, particularly in the fact that 55% of store associates believe consumers had more information about their products than they did. Store staff did not have the level of technology to be able to meet the expectations of customers. Now we are seeing more and more micro-kiosks being used by customers ― particularly since customers have become comfortable using kiosks during air travel. We are really becoming a self-service type of culture. But those who work in a store are kind-of frustrated that they don’t have information at their fingertips or borrow a shared advice to get information to be on top of things customers are looking for. For example a sale item may go out of stock but may be in backroom but nobody knows about it until someone complains and they lose a sale.

RTP: Did any of the survey results surprise you?


Riso: Again I think that 55% number. The other thing was we had approximately 28% of people who went to a store to find something and because it was out of stock, or couldn’t find information or someone to ask, the survey indicated $132 went unspent. A lot of the study finding revolved around the fact that technology could have prevented that lost sale. We have devices today that not only capture data, which we’ve done for many years, now we are working to include the concept of voice where I could call another associate or store on my mobile device. Voice and data are the combinations of things associates need. Also, to mitigate costs, now when we design a device, we don’t include voice and data in all devices because of cost. We design three types: only data, only voice, and voice and data. We are trying to minimize the cost so retailers can, wherever they should, empower their associates with the appropriate device. Even a cashier having a voice device versus using an intercom for price check, pickup, more change, can do it more quietly with a voice-enabled badge versus shouting across a store.

RTP: What are the key takeaways you believe retailers should be aware of?

Riso: We have been sharing with retailers that we can help them with “not on display” or “not in stock” showing them how to do stock alerts with mobile devices. We have offered the concept of multiple devices. It is getting to the point where everybody in the store has to be connected and have access to data. A lot of retailers have reduced labor in store to remain competitive. If the labor remaining in the store does not have the appropriate technology, it is definitely not a step in the right direction. Let’s say I’m doing work in a store and a customer asks a question ― I have to stop to respond to a question such as: “Do you have this item?” If I have a mobile device with me, I can check pricing status right there; or if they want to talk to the manager, I can call the manager. It is a very efficient way for the customers to get the information they want while associates can still be productive.

RTP: How is Motorola responding to the issues addressed in the survey?

Riso: From the survey standpoint, we sometimes actually share with retailer results related to their particular stores. For the most part it’s basically getting retailers to understand that there is this concern both on the side of the consumer and with the store staff who are willing to do a better job but they just need better tools to do that. Hopefully the survey helps. We have met with six different retailers since January, sharing their own results ― three have already taken steps to correct the problems we found. For the other three it was a surprise to them. They thanked us for letting them know.

RTP: How far along do you believe most retailers are in efforts to empower store associates with mobile technology? Are there any particular reasons why retailers would hesitate to invest in this area?

Riso: When we look at what was once a traditional mobile computer and putting them in the hands of everyone in the store, the costs could easily be cost prohibitive. When you start taking features out by design ― for instance, you can do simple lookups and voice commands for a lot less than a typical mobile computer ― we can now show them how it can be cost-effective without having to have the same device in everybody’s hands.

RTP: We spoke during the NRF conference in January. Were there any takeaways from the conference ― either from retailers, solution providers, or conference sessions ― that precipitated any new strategies or focus for Motorola?

Riso: NRF was a fabulous show this year. Three things I walked away with: 1. Those retailers in the fashion segment; concept of item level RFID made a very big impact. It continues to show significant improvement with ROIs in a store; being able to take just about a daily inventory ― have every styles, size and product ― has shown significant increases in sales. 2. Hardly any retailers that didn’t agree they need to have all their store associates connected with data and voice, and now we have to work towards getting there. 3. Everybody is completely taken aback by the surge in the use of smartphones by the consumers in their stores. In the worse-case scenarios, for example in supermarket chain a customer with full basket of groceries may realize one product is 20 cents cheaper down the street will abandon the whole cart. Those kinds of things resonated well with me. We need to be prepared to help their customers. I can see the day when the customer enters they store and can be on the store’s wireless network.

RTP: What is Motorola doing to help retailers meet the needs of consumers in the next generation of retail?

Riso: The next generation is that smarter consumer. The key thing, in the retail industry, especially in North America, is that 20% to 25% of people work in retail industry and they are all mobile. We strive to help them have data while they are mobile. Today the smart consumers also is mobile. The retail industry must get ready for that level of technology used by consumers while they are shopping. We try to help with that.

Frank Riso is a senior director and member of the Worldwide Field Operations staff at Motorola Soutions, Inc.  He is the Retail & Hospitality Executive for Motorola Solutions’ Industry Solutions Group.  He leads the company’s policy and execution for the development and implementation of the strategies and initiatives, operations and marketing activities for the retail and hospitality industry worldwide.  His responsibilities include business development, industry relations, trade events, internal & external web content, market and competitive analysis, and joint partner marketing among others.

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