As big-brand national retailers adjust to the post-pandemic evolution in shopper behavior, many are adopting new strategies and exploring additional product lines and verticals to boost profits. The pandemic led to a surge in ecommerce, yet there are signs of reawakening life in the brick-and-mortar experience, and physical stores are seeking to regain market share.
Above all, retail brands have learned that customer experience is key and that shoppers are demanding new levels of convenience. Retailers providing a one-stop shop with omnichannel options will inevitably capture more engagement.
Simultaneously, consumer demand for new connected devices — such as cellphones and tablets, smart systems, and connected wearables and hearables — has never been higher. This convergence has led many big-box retailers, major grocery stores and other well-known retailers — think Walmart, Costco, Staples, Loblaws and so on — to embrace the same strategy: implementing wireless outlets and kiosks inside their primary stores.
But how can these retailers learn to operate a profitable wireless store-within-a-store when they may have little to no experience this highly complex retail vertical? It’s essential to understand the potential crunch points and areas where even an experienced retailer will need specialist knowledge to navigate these pitfalls.
1. Integrating processes, technology, and data.
It’s not as simple as using the primary store’s usual point-of-sale and retail management system for the wireless store-within-a-store. Telecom retail requires very specialized systems and technology for processing transactions, managing inventory, configuring pricing, managing carrier relationships, reconciling commissions, tracking rebates, specialized data and analytics, and so much more. All this information then needs to be integrated with and tracked in the primary retail management system to give the retailer the overall big picture.
2. Using an independent retailer – or not?
An important early decision is whether the primary retailer is going to be operating the wireless kiosks inside stores themselves, or whether to retain the services of an independent wireless kiosk operator. Both have pros and cons, largely based on convenience and ease of operation versus control over the brand and retail experience. But whatever the decision, it is essential for the primary retailer to own the contract on the technology being implemented in the wireless kiosk. An independent operator may have its own contractual obligations and be unable to meet the primary retailer’s business needs.
3. Working with multiple telecom carriers.
Even for a regular cellphone store, integrating with the carrier can be highly complex and challenging. For a store-within-a-store, those challenges are magnified by offering a wide range of rate plans, which means working with multiple carriers. Added to that, even on a single device and rate plan sale, the retailer might be tracking upwards of five different subsidy types, depending on promotions at that time.
A further complexity is the various upsells that could be added on, such as insurance coverage. The retailer will need an RMS that can access up-to-date rate plans from all carriers and automatically reconcile commission reports to ensure they aren’t leaving any money on the table, as well as manage the wildly complex subsidies and rebates involved in selling discounted devices and rate plans from various carriers. The system will also need to provide seamless integration into multiple carrier systems if the retailer is going to offer its customers a smooth activation experience.
4. Keeping inventory management separate
High-value products such as smartphones and tablets need careful management, especially in a wireless kiosk environment where there may be limited storage space and the inventory will need storing alongside the main store’s products. The retailer’s wireless retail management system will need to provide intelligent inventory management solutions so that the management of inventory at wireless kiosks can be kept separate from the main stores’ inventory.
5. Managing store-within-a-store staff.
As with the retail management and inventory systems, it’s unwise for the retailer to merge employee management systems between the primary store and the wireless operations. If the kiosk is managed independently, this is not a problem, but for primary retailers operating their own store-within-a-store, it’s important to keep this system separate. That said, your wireless employee management system will need to integrate with your primary retail employee systems and enable third-party authentication to streamline employee logins.
6. Solving for new consumer behaviors.
Customers have new expectations and will expect an elevated experience that allows them to start and end their purchasing journey in any retail channel they choose — even when engaging with a kiosk-style retail operation. The primary retailer must ensure the technology they implement for its wireless program has a full suite of omnichannel retail solutions, such as ecommerce options, buy/reserve online and pick up in-store, curbside pickup, dropship, queue management and store appointment scheduling.
In addition, new technologies in this space are creating digital experience platforms and seamless activation solutions that are transforming both the customer and staff experience in the telecom retail vertical. Retailers need to create as seamless an experience for their wireless kiosk customers as they do for their primary store customers — anything less will not be tolerated by today’s high expectations.
7. Keeping up with evolving trends and technology.
The retail landscape is constantly evolving — and so is the connected device and telecom industry. Evaluating software and going through procurement can be a long and tedious process for any retailer, but it can be especially challenging for a big-box brand. By choosing a solution with a full integration platform from a specialist technology partner that’s forward thinking, big-box retailers can futureproof their wireless retail strategy.
Stacy Hamer is SVP of Revenue and Client Operations at iQmetrix, a leading North American provider of telecom retail management solutions. She has been with iQmetrix since 2002, handling everything from launch to account management and enterprise consulting to customer feedback. She now heads up iQmetrix’s Revenue and Client Operations teams, including Enterprise Sales, Account Management, Project Management, Professional Services and Support. Hamer is known for her commitment to ensuring clients are receiving a great experience, achieving their goals, and benefiting from the knowledge offered by iQmetrix’s customer-facing teams.