How to Empower Retail Workers with Internal Apps

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While customer-facing mobile applications get a lot of press for their impact on shoppers, apps geared toward sales associates and managers offer equally impressive benefits to retailers.

That’s because internal apps give workers real-time access to product and inventory information and help retailers create an easy, consistent in-store experience for customers. They can even provide management with valuable insights into worker productivity.

For example, by tracking sales per payroll hour via a mobile app, managers at The Container Store can better understand how each sales associate performs at different times of day. According to a post on, the information enables managers to make data-driven staffing and scheduling decisions.

Lowe’s also outfits its workers with a handful of apps designed to help them work smarter and more efficiently, Click Z reports. For instance, representatives on the floor can use an app to calculate credit, instantly estimating the customer’s fixed monthly payments to drive the sale.

How to Choose the Right App for Your Store
As retailers look to mobile solutions to improve operations and serve the customer, decision-makers should determine a strategy for developing and deploying internal apps. Three options take centre stage:

Off-the-Shelf Apps Can Be Deployed Quickly
Particularly useful for retailers in need of time-tracking and inventory management solutions, prebuilt apps can be deployed quickly and easily, with a comparatively small price tag. Of course, off-the-shelf apps can’t accommodate every business need or objective.

Fully Custom Apps Help Achieve Particular Goals
At the other end of the spectrum, custom mobile apps can be designed to achieve retail’s unique goals. These solutions usually require substantial time and money investments, but the payoff is worth it —custom apps can create more efficient processes that transform business.

Partially Custom Apps Split the Difference
Platform-based apps —which rely on an app developer such as Kony or IBM to provide back-end infrastructure —give retailers a way to simplify app deployment without sacrificing function. Because they can access the vendor’s tools, infrastructure and processes, IT personnel don’t need to build the environment before they can benefit from the app.

To learn more about CDW’s IT services for retailers, visit  Retail Technology page.

Google begins rollout of Discover feed on US homepage

Google’s new Discover feed, which it announced as part of its 20th anniversary last month, has made its way to Google’s US homepage on mobile, as first noticed by 9to5Google. The feature adds a series of information cards underneath the search box on the homepage when accessed from a mobile browser. The bulk of these cards revolve around relevant news pieces, but the feed can also show sports results and weather forecasts and will change based on your interests and search history.

The update is a significant change for the world’s most trafficked web page, which has historically been kept pretty clean aside from the search box at its core. It’s a big sign of Google’s shifting attitude towards surfacing information, where the search giant is increasingly trying to predict the information you want before you actually search for it directly. Google’s mobile Chrome browser already shows a similar spread of articles and information whenever you open a new tab.

The new Discover feed can be accessed from mobile browsers including Chrome and Safari on both iOS and Android, and is available on in the US now. A date for the international rollout is yet to be announced.


How to get great photo prints from your smartphone

We get letters.

Reader Courtney of Denham Springs, Louisiana, wants to know about getting prints made from her iPhone.

She writes:

“A while back, I used the Walgreens app to do this; but I was very disappointed in the results. The photo was printed glossy; there was no ‘matte’ option.”

Her question: “What is my best option (price+quality) for printing 4×6 prints from iPhone?”

Thank you, Courtney, for listening to the Talking Tech podcast and hitting me up on Facebook with a question

The MPIX photo lab offers more choices for consumers than most competitors.


Here’s my answer.

Short version: You can’t beat the apps that let you send the print to CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart for immediate access of small prints. They’re cheap, they’re quick, you can pick them up at the store and you don’t have to pay those huge shipping fees.

That said, when you use this option, you get little to no choice. It’s glossy and 4×6 prints all the way.

If you want choices, look to mail order, and photo-specific apps like Shutterfly or, my favorite, MPIX.

You get those choices you wanted on different papers and sizes, but you’ll pay for it. The prints are affordable, at around 30 cents a piece, but the shipping will add up. On Shutterfly, I ordered 16 prints, and the cost to ship was $5.00, bringing the print price to over 60 cents a piece. (However, check for the frequent discount codes Shutterfly advertises to members, which often offer free shipping.)

MPIX is a pro photographers lab available to the public and has the widest selection of print sizes and types. Like the others, it has an app that lets you upload photos directly from your phone.

The shipping isn’t cheap at MPIX either, and you’ll wait a week for them to arrive, but here’s a pro tip: Order $35 worth, and the shipping is free.

By the way, there are several apps available to upload photos for store pickup from CVS, Target and Walmart. They’re called, 1 hour photo and Print Photos.

So that;’s the lowdown Courtney. Hope we helped. Thanks for writing into Talking Tech!

Readers, viewers, listeners—where do you get your prints made from your phones? What questions do you have about consumer tech? We’re here to help.