How Mobile Tech Helps Ease the COVID-19 Burden on Retail and Logistics

Mobile technology holds the key to helping retail, transportation and logistics industries manage consumer demands sustainably, by increasing efficiency, managing workloads and solving problems quickly.

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There isn’t a single industry that remains unaffected by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). With all non-essential shops closed and the population confined to their homes to slow the spread of the virus, there has naturally been a surge in online purchases and home deliveries. This, in turn, has inevitably put significant strain on the logistics industry to fulfill orders, while still taking the necessary safety precautions, thus decreasing worker efficiency.

One thing is for certain during the pandemic—online sales are booming. In fact, U.S. e-commerce sales increased by 49% in April, largely due to more consumers buying their groceries online. These new demands have placed tremendous strain on the supply chain to keep things moving and ensure essential goods are delivered to the right recipient on time – whether to supermarkets, retail stores or directly to consumers’ homes.

The huge surge in demand has led to retail websites crashing or having to remind shoppers of the delay in delivery before confirming payment. As it struggled to get to grips with the pandemic, Amazon told third-party sellers it would temporarily cease shipments of non-essential items to warehouses, so that the company could prioritize medical supplies and household goods. This interruption lasted 20 days, between March 17 to April 5. Although Amazon has resumed fulfillment of non-essential items, there are and will continue to be, ongoing strains and pressures on retail and transportation and logistics industries.

With no firm end in sight, mobile technology holds the key to helping retail, transportation and logistics industries manage consumer demands sustainably, by increasing efficiency, managing workloads and solving problems quickly.

Here are four key considerations for optimizing mobility:

  1. Become more efficient

Transportation and logistics solution providers are looking to improve service for both their business customers and consumers, lower costs and increase staff productivity.

Using handheld mobile technology in warehouses can help employees fulfill customer orders in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional systems. This in turn also helps brands to make better decisions on what products they need to supply to their retail shops, thus meeting the demands of their customers faster.

An integrated mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) platform helps reduce mobile device downtime to minimize unnecessary service interruptions that can negatively impact customer service. Drivers and supply chain workers can provide real-time analytics on device battery life, location and network connectivity, which allows IT teams to gain valuable insights and help manage devices accordingly.

  1. Increase reliability and reduce risk

Complexity is often a factor in transportation and logistics. Weather, staffing issues and vehicle scheduling are just a few factors that can create confusion in shipping a large number of diverse goods. Service issues that waste time and money, threaten to undermine regulatory compliance and disappoint customers, must clearly be avoided.

Logistics staff and drivers depend on their mobile devices and apps to do their jobs. When their device goes down, workers stop working. Using remote control software to manage mobile devices, IT departments can deploy, as well as secure and manage mobile devices across vast geographic areas, without the need to send an engineer onsite.

Advancements in supply chain tracking and delivery also allows consumers to have more visibility into products that are in-transit and view the status of their order in real-time. Through nearly instant communication, customers can stay on top of their orders and immediately get notified of any changes. This transparency and sharing of information through technology builds rapport and trust between the retailer and the consumer. Another way technology can improve customer loyalty is through retail apps, which offer customization for customers looking for an item at a nearby store, tracking the status of an order, checking remaining balances and any special offers on products that suit their preferences. 

  1. Provide management with visibility

Line managers and business leaders need to understand what is happening within their distribution network in real-time and respond with both accuracy and efficiency.

By having complete visibility into their supply chain, decision-makers can quickly diagnose and fix issues. Failure to do this can have an impact on dispatching, customer relationship management, asset management, mobile point of sale (mPOS) and warehouse management. 

By adopting a mobile-first strategy, businesses can improve workforce performance efficiencies, increase sales, improve decision-making speed and scale, and ultimately, their ability to cope with the added demands placed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

  1. Ensure security

With a spike in cybersecurity threats around the Coronavirus, it’s important that technology used in transportation and logistics is properly secured and maintained in order to keep pace with the evolving situation. At the same time, it’s important that employees can access the right data and information to improve efficiency.

However, employers need to ensure that their employees are accessing business-critical technology and data in a secure way. Employees using corporate devices to access unauthorized websites, apps or content can threaten a business’ security and decrease productivity.

The right business-critical mobility solution will allow organizations to incorporate centralized user authentication, single sign-on and role management functionality, which will ensure data security within the business.

By implementing mobile technology that is properly managed and monitored remotely, retail, transportation and logistics businesses can ease the burden of erratic order volumes, keep their staff safe and navigate this crisis. Without it, they will continue to feel the pressure and could find themselves struggling to operate.