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US retailer builds on relationship with technology company to gain competitive advantage

Home Depot today revealed plans to extend its ongoing commitment to the use of mobile technology to drive competitive advantage in its stores. 

The largest home improvement retailer by revenue in the US is planning on rolling out the latest enterprise device from mobile partner, Motorola.

The move follows its deployment of 30,000 Motorola MC75 digital assistants across its 1,970 stores last year to improve staff productivity and customer service. And it builds on its initial roll out of 10,000 mobile devices from the supplier in 2010, costing about $60 million (£30.3m) -- its biggest investment that year.

Strategic staff empowerment

Jennifer Smith, Home Depot senior store operations director, told guests invited by Motorola to a retail event held today in New York that the strategic use of mobile technology has empowered Home Depot staff.

They now rely on the Motorola devices to check inventory, provide product information, print labels, communicate with other associates and even check-out customers with debit or credit cards from anywhere in the store.

"We are using mobile technology in the traditional task sense," Smith said. "It gives us a tool to solve customers' issues and remedy a potentially bad experience before they walk out of the store and to our competitors'."

She also said the retailer would be buying into a brand new category of mobile device that Motorola unveiled -- the SB1. This 'smart badge' mobile device offers similar capabilities to the MC75 already in use, but in a smaller, more energy efficient form factor using e-ink display technology.

Enhancing shopfloor productivity

The wearable SB1 frees staff to complete tasks without having to worry about holding or holstering a larger mobile device on their person. They can also use it to access a personalised task list using Motorola's also newly launched mobile workforce management software.

Distributed according to availability and expertise, staff can use their SB1s to also accept tasks and acknowledge completion; scan a barcode to check price and inventory; and connect via push-to-talk (PTT) with other workers carrying other PTT-enabled mobile devices in the store.

"The key for us is empowering our sales associates to have conversations with customers that demonstrate the difference between our products beyond price," added Smith. "Staff working for Amazon, for example, don't have that ability to make an emotional connection with their customers."

Motorola was at the event to demonstrate its latest mobile devices and software designed for retail alongside the launch of the SB1. These included Wi-Fi based proximity awareness and analytics, a shopping assistant mobile app module, mobile point of sale, and stock-out video analytics among others.

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