Cyber Monday Kicks Off a Merry Mobile Season

Mobile devices (wearables, too) are going to make the 2015 holiday shopping season in the United States look a lot different than last year—and you’re going to see that not only in the hands (and on the wrists) of fellow shoppers, but also in the clutches of store sales staff.

And while you won’t see what’s happening behind the scenes in the loading docks and warehouses, rest assured mobile devices will be keeping Santa’s elves happier, with fewer lost items and much better information as to what is coming and when it will be there. In other words, this year when you ask an associate when the ultra-hot gift your nephew simply can’t live without will be in stock, she may actually know.

Mobile Delivers a Boosted Shopping Experience

The biggest change from last year will be at the checkout, when a far greater number of stores—especially in malls—will offer shoppers a variety of mobile ways to pay. Given that Apple Pay was only weeks-old a year ago and that Apple phones capable of handling near field communication (NFC) interactions are far more common now, look for signs embracing both Android Pay and Apple Pay to be more common than holly, mistletoe, and red and green bells.

But the mobile fun will start long before the shopper is ready to check out. Many stores will sport beacons that will broadcast aisle-specific offers (25% off!) if you walk slowly enough in that area. A number of mobile shopping apps this season will also recognize store Wi-Fi signals, allowing someone walking into a particular chain store to automatically have that chain’s app launch—and to see retailer-specific coupons valid only for that hour.

This holiday, mobile will be everywhere: with shoppers, sales associates, and warehouse staff. Not even Rudolph gets around that much.

Customers Stay Engaged

Store associates are the intermediary between two distinct parts of the retail universe—engaging with shoppers and interacting with the back-office operations. And mobile, typically tablets, helps them with both.

Consider looking over some shoes in a department store, when an associate offers you help. You ask for the displayed shoe in a different color and size. Instead of leaving you to go in the back room to search for the desired footwear—a situation that far too often would allow the shopper to get bored and wander off—the associate sticks right by your side, checking the inventory and alerting a colleague in the back room to find what you need and bring it out.

The Warehouse Knows What’s Where and When

Aside from losing a popular doll that falls off a forklift and hides behind a pallet of microwave ovens, the biggest challenge in the warehouse is knowing what is loaded onto trucks that are still five hours away.

This year, it will be common to have tablet-armed workers loading trucks and scanning radio frequency identification (RFID) tags—a different kind of wireless device, often found on boxes and inserted into clothing to assist warehouse staff in locating merchandise and verifying accuracy. Drivers will have their own tablets, which will communicate an ongoing location with various satellites so the store accurately knows when the packages will be arriving. Upon arrival at the store, another tablet-armed associate will acknowledge receipt, and store associates across the building will have an updated, real-time picture of what will be on shelves—making data far more accessible to workers at all points in the retail supply chain.

Mobile this year won’t quite have the efficiency of Santa’s workshop, but we’re getting close.

Explore the interactive graphic below to learn how VMware helps optimize customer engagement, store operations, and employee training and communication, while ensuring security of customer data at stores and distribution centers.