If you develop software applications for mobile workers, you need to make sure the mobile printer you integrate your solution with will do the job — whether that’s printing receipts, labels, or documents — and perform reliably in the customer’s environment. But in vertical markets where disruption has pretty much become the norm, it’s also important to choose mobile printers that give your clients the agility to keep up with changing demands.
Consider these trends in retail, warehouse operations, and supply chain and the impact they’ll have on the way your clients use mobile printers.
The latest trends impacting mobile printing – in the store
In the face of intense competition from Amazon and other e-commerce enterprises, retailers and restaurateurs, large and small, are constantly looking for smart, cost-effective technologies to sharpen their competitive edge. They want to remove the friction out of online order management and store operations to create a seamless experience for customers. This drives their continued investment in mobile technology to enable solutions that drive efficiencies from the front of the store to the back of the house.
- Solutions as a Service: Retailers are looking for ways to accelerate the acquisition and deployment of mobile solutions. As a result, Solutions as a Service (more than just pure hardware as a service) will emerge in 2019. Retailers will purchase hardware + software + management services to mitigate the high costs associated with the capital investment of mobile deployments. And solution providers and hardware vendors are going to offer innovative ways to take away the pain of capital purchases, by offering a way for retailers to purchase the integrated solution on a periodic basis. This is both scalable and affordable, and will allow retailers to react more quickly to meet customer demands.
- Stand-alone printing solutions: Retailers know they must capitalize on opportunities to improve employee efficiency and satisfaction. For example, sales associates value the ability to automatically scan and print clear, accurate markdown labels, shaving hours from tedious manually based inventory markdown procedures that are carried out in the back office and then carried to the store floor. Stand-alone printing solutions that incorporate SKU files that reside in the printer, connected barcode scanners, and seamless updating via cloud-based apps are true game-changers. It allows store associates to remain on the sales floor helping customers while completing necessary store tasks.
- Personalized service: Retailers understand that delivering a better customer experience is critical to increasing revenue. They’re looking for ways to leverage consumer data to personalize marketing once customers enter their store, through everything from push notifications to smart shelves to video analytics. Quick-deploy combination printer/scanner solutions can also play a key role. For example, fast-food companies can produce accurate barcode labels for fast-scanning of bagged food purchases by cashiers at checkout, decreasing customer wait time – and also ensuring proper price capture.
- Unattended shopping: Mobile payment security and customer privacy will gain ground to protect shoppers with additional innovative biometric and location-aware technologies to reduce the risk of credit card fraud, and remove friction from the in-aisle shopping experience. Amazon Go and similar unattended shopping technologies will truly transform the in-store experience.
The latest trends impacting mobile printing – in the warehouse
With some enterprises and brands offering same-day delivery, warehouse operations are all about getting product to the customer faster than ever — and doing it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
- Micro-fulfillment startups: A growing trend is to partner with micro-fulfillment startups that leverage AI, robotics, or other advanced picking and sorting technologies to operate small urban fulfillment centers and help cut the costs of last-mile delivery. In the future, they might even be co-housed within small urban stores. Accurate labeling for inventory entering and exiting the warehouse is a must, and must be completed hyper-efficiently in warehouses operating with only a handful of workers.
- Cross-docking: With cross-docking, merchandise is received, processed and then shipped to a store on the same day. It’s gaining popularity with enterprises that move time-sensitive merchandise – and it’s already mandatory in some food sectors. With the right mobile printing technology, warehouse workers can literally jump inside trucks at the inbound dock and start relabeling for store delivery. Labels can also include information telling workers at the out-bound dock where to store merchandise in the delivery truck, boosting unloading efficiency.
- Reliable connections, everywhere: Mobile device models with, for example, dual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth deliver maximum wireless connectivity even in concrete and steel warehouses that are decidedly unfriendly environments for mobile devices. They also ensure wireless connectivity outside the warehouse for drivers on the road.
The latest trends impacting mobile printing – across the supply chain
- Standardized printing: Printing functions have typically been an afterthought in process optimization efforts. But they’re now becoming an integral part of the solution architecture, as enterprises seek to simplify, standardize and centralize printing across their supply chain to mitigate risk, optimize processes and increase agility. That means the focus is shifting from hardware to printer platforms featuring robust software, communications, and integration capabilities.
- On-demand printing: Wireless, on-demand label and receipt printing is a proven enabler for peak performance. Brother’s printers are engineered to support lean or just-in-time manufacturing practices in addition to warehouse operations. They support a broad range of industrial applications on the manufacturing floor or in the warehouse, including serial number, picking and packing, shipping, component and calibration labels, plus asset tags with barcodes or QR codes, and paper receipts, invoices, orders, etc.
- Fully integrated management systems: To improve accuracy, productivity and speed across the supply chain, warehouse management solutions are increasingly interfacing or integrating with upstream transportation management systems and/or downstream route and DSD Cloud-based device management apps make it simple and easy to remotely deploy and upgrade the mobile printers integrated with these solutions wherever they’re located.
Mobile Device Management is a Must across Verticals
Another trend gaining momentum in 2019 is mobile device management that’s expanding to become more than just a mobile phone or computer management solution. True mobile device management will grow to include peripheral devices such as mobile printers, scanners and other devices, inside and outside the four walls, allowing the most efficient use and maintenance of mobile solutions, ensuring better uptime, and better utilization of equipment.