The verdict on whether consumers had embraced omnichannel shopping was still up in the air before 2020, but recent events have left little doubt. Businesses and enterprises adapted new retail operations to accommodate consumers’ preferences. New processes required innovative IT, such as mobile point of sale (mPOS) and other devices that require Wi-Fi or cellular data plans to stay connected to the retailer’s network.
As it turns out, investments in these technologies have been wise, as new shopping habits appear to be permanent. A Zogby poll found that 64% of consumers now use buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), and Incisiv reports that 85% of shoppers use curbside pickup more now than before the pandemic. Mobile retail devices streamline these, and many other processes, enhancing efficiency and customer experiences.
However, Cellular Data Costs Crept Up
Untethering from the checkout counter to meet customers where they are is vital to enhancing the customer experience in order to provide greater convenience, efficiency, and personalization. When mobile devices such as Zebra ET5x series tablets or Zebra EC5x series mobile computers are configured with SIM cards, businesses are empowered to capture more revenue by taking retail operations outside at sidewalk or tent sales or on the road to sell at pop-up shops or events.
Retailers soon learned, however, that when mobile devices are out of range of the Wi-Fi network cellular data costs add up. There can be a substantial cost associated with the flexibility to move in and out of the store to seamlessly provide the uninterrupted customer service that is so highly demanded. Moreover, the costs can multiply when a retail enterprise has hundreds or thousands of locations with people interacting curbside or shopping at outdoor venues.
How to Control Cellular Data Costs
Fortunately, a substantial cellular data OPEX doesn’t have to be the cost of doing business in the new omnichannel consumer era. Retailers can build a strategy that keeps cellular data costs to a minimum while not standing in the way of mobility and meeting customer expectations. Here are four cost-control measures, most effectively managed from a single platform:
1. Use multiple carriers
Carriers offer different plans and cost structures in different regions and for different types of customers. It’s typically beneficial for a regional or national retailer to use different carriers to minimize costs.
2. Pool data plans
The tablets or handhelds that employees use often don’t use all of the cellular data included in their plans. Data pooling allows you to combine that data and share it among several endpoints. So, if one tablet or handheld exceeds its monthly limit, it can use data allocated to other devices.
3. Establish real-time data alerts
Cellular data usage can change quickly. Usage can spike, data pools can approach their limits, and an endpoint can suddenly use more data than average. With real-time alerts, you know immediately when an event occurs that can increase monthly costs, when an endpoint is using much more data than expected, or when cellular backup kicks in when a network goes down, enabling you to take action in time to control costs.
4. Automate data plan management
It’s essential to find a management platform that allows you to manage multiple carriers, gives you visibility into activity on each endpoint, and automatically adjusts users and plans. This tool can also show you if you’re paying for more data than you need, so you can adjust plans and minimize costs.
In addition to managing cellular data usage, it’s also beneficial to find a solution that manages devices. Solutions such as Zebra OVS provides retailers with visibility into where devices are, which applications employees can use on them, who has access to them, and the ability to optimize device performance to minimize rework and, therefore, extra data usage.
Freedom from Limitations
Once cellular data costs are under control and retailers build an IT ecosystem that supports the new ways that consumers want to engage, the next step is likely innovation. Retailers can use mPOS devices inside or outside the store to place orders for customers when items aren’t in stock. Sales associates can meet customers at their vehicles to accept payments or to manage returns. Employees can also meet people outside the store to help them sign up for the retailer’s loyalty program and help enhance their shopping trip with instant rewards.
It all becomes possible and practical with visibility into cellular data costs and a partner that provides you with a system that allows you to control them.
Contact DecisionPoint Systems for a demonstration.