Contrary to what the title implies, don’t expect this post to be filled with a heavy dose of statistics and abstract theory...

...about retail information systems, integrations, supply chain, and recommended security measures. Rather, for just a few minutes, let’s step away from some of the all too common industry terms that technologists love to use: “ESB”, “RIS”, “SOA”, “Hosting”, “Cloud” and “P2P”.

Instead, let’s learn more about how retailers can enable their employees with mobile apps for business productivity by looking at how the general everyday consumers find and use mobile applications.  These ordinary consumers can lend insights into how both small and large retailers can better utilize their own employees to gather business intelligence on mobile applications. Additionally, business technologists can witness the proliferation and the specifications of these consumer applications in order to leverage them within their business ecosystem. It’s worth noting that often times a retailer’s employees have very similar demographics to the their target customer or ideal persona, so mirroring consumer app behavior can certainly be effective.

How significant is the adoption of smartphone apps among consumers? According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) there will be 76.9 billion global downloads of mobile apps by next year.  To give you a point of comparison, there were 300,000 plus mobile apps in 2010 that were downloaded a total of 10.9 billion times. How is that for growth?  Yes, consumers love mobile apps.  Even more important than their insatiable “app” appetite is their willingness to try new tools and applications that have the promise to simplify their life.

Case in point, consumers love the mobile app as seen through its 4.5 star rating based on 6,000+ reviews on the iPhone App Store. Curiously, Mint has taken the extremely sensitive topic and complex tasks of banking account and credit card information aggregation while engendering consumer interest, trust and peak level of customer satisfaction.  Mint has consistently been listed as one of Time Magazine’s 50 top websites over the years while earning multiple other accolades.  Sure, this app is well designed and built, but at its core is simply the ability to get real time information on the financial items that are most important, quickly and easily.

There are more of these consumer apps worthy of praise.  I found too many to mention but is only fair to acknowledge the Google Calendar app because in my opinion it opened the door to allowing families to coordinate their schedules in a simple and effective way. Yes, there are dozens of other great calendar apps out there but I give the nod to Google for breaking through this category.

Consumer interest in finding more effective ways to get things done goes so far beyond finances and family schedules as is evident by the fact that the Brightnest app has become a rapidly rising star due to its promise to “help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders.”

Customers rave about the ability to use Brightnest to identify tasks that need to be completed and then let the intelligence of the application enable the customer to accomplish these tasks and track the progress as efficiently as possible.

As a theme, it is clear that both general consumers and your “productivity warrior” employees are always looking for simple tools that collect and give structure to important information.  As an IT  or Technology leader in a business that is searching for ways to measure your retail performance or improve your retail store level execution, your ability to identify, endorse and promote applications (both consumer apps and business apps) that assist in this arena is key to your continued success.

Minimizing the time your employees spend “doodling” with ineffective apps (stay tuned for the blog to highlight the countless hours of productivity lost to this) while also creating an environment that encourages employees to look for productivity enhancing apps both inside and outside of their business lives, is a wise way for business technology leaders to effectively influence their teams.

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