Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Starting Your Inventory Management App Off Right

When designing a retail inventory management app, it’s crucial to do a lot of heavy lifting in the preliminary stages of design to ensure that the transition from the client’s old system to their new retail app is seamless, intuitive, and incorporates just what they need to get the job done right. From concept to delivery, the retail inventory app design process requires research, attention to detail, inspiration, testing, and refining. By keeping the following tips in mind during the design process, you can be sure to deliver a quality app that your client and their employees will love. Here are four best practices to develop an effective retail inventory management app:

  1. Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs
  2. Find out What the App Users Need
  3. Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design
  4. Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now, let’s look at each best practice in more depth.

Best Practice 1.) Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs

Prior to diving into a design project, it’s important to ask the right questions in order to understand 1) why the business prioritized this project, 2) the process/tasks employees are being asked to do, and which parts are the most challenging, and 3) how the system (including APIs) works in order to design around limitations or suggest changes accordingly. These questions are crucial, along with other obvious questions, like what equipment/device does the client foresee using, how many stores do they have, how many employees will be using this solution, who has admin privileges, and how will admin use differs from that of general employees? This initial info-gathering stage is key in the design process because having the team and the stakeholders “in the know” is necessary when making a polished, efficient, and effective app that everyone is proud of.   design_agile_shockoe

Best Practice 2.) Find out What the App Users Need 

Once you’re confident with the client-provided requirements data, the interview process should transition from the stakeholders to their employees. Sitting behind a screen, it can be easy to gloss over seemingly minor details, but those minor details can impact the people on the other end and affect their job performance daily. By focusing on details such as how the user will input data to the app and how they will maneuver around in it, you will be able to design a new system that will be effective and intuitive for all users and will replace outdated systems that might require quirky shortcuts and workarounds. Vital to this step is gathering client data, studying the data, and researching and implementing said research, all the while incorporating your interview results with the employees/users. If you don’t understand their procedures, keep the dialogue going until you understand their daily routine, in order to provide them with the solutions they’re looking for. app-user-needs

Best Practice 3.) Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design

Once you have all the details worked out, start working out the app flow. Put the pen to the paper, the markers on the whiteboard, and let the heavy brainstorms pour inspired innovative ideas. This process will require multiple iterations and failures so you can reach the holy grail of design solutions for your client. In order to achieve this level of design fruition, you will need to research design trends (Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance), your client’s app (if they have one), and their competitors’ apps (if they have them). Expand your design horizon outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be satisfied with safe designs; mediocre designs don’t break any new ground or impress clients. That being said, try not to reinvent the wheel either. It’s great to have inspiration, but it’s up to you to be innovative while also staying intuitive. user stories - inventory management app

Best Practice 4.) Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now that you have shiny, impressive, and modern designs, it’s time to test. Your design has to exceed expectations. So, even though you’ve interviewed a variety of people, researched every corner of Google, and spent countless hours in Sketch, Xd, or your design app of choice, you still need to test the app out. The testing results will likely incur some redesigns, as any good test would. It’s important to ensure that the user flow makes sense, which is why you’ll test your prototypes with the client’s employees. Remember, these employees are the experts in their job field. They know what they need to complete their job successfully and what will make their day-to-day work routine more efficient. Listen to their every complaint, concern, and compliment. Redesigns can be fun. They often make us rethink what we thought we knew or understood. This could be a eureka moment for a designer, their team, and possibly the client. At most, it should only require some simple, but effective, design tweaks in order for the user to know what’s what. So tweak away, tighten it up, and bust out of your design bubble. Find the sweet spot everyone’s looking for and apply your groundbreaking ideas to your designs. Finally, make sure any, and I mean any, users will know how your designs work—intuitively.

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Key Points for Retail Inventory Apps 

Be sure to keep these points in mind when designing an app for retail inventory solutions:

  • Listen: The stakeholders typically have a good idea of what they’re looking for.
  • Answer these essential questions:
    • Why does the business (client) want this inventory app? Know their KPI (Very important!)
    • How does the system currently work? (APIs and integration)
    • What are the client’s current pain points? (This is where we can REALLY help, by improving on what doesn’t currently work.)
    • What works? (What do employees like about the current system?)
    • What type of equipment are you designing the inventory app for? (What type of device will employees use to access the app? Will they need a sling or a harness if they’re unloading a truck?)
    • What is the client’s budget? (A necessary evil.)
  • Follow up. Have constant communication and keep everyone in the loop. Interview the client’s employees to make sure you’re including everything they need to do their job well.
  • Prototype your designs, and see what works and what might need to be tweaked or rethought to make the app intuitive and easy to use.
  • There’s always room for improving the design until you get it right.

Look Towards the Future Once your super-powered retail inventory app is developed, there will be updates, which require continued communication between you and the client. It’s your job (and ours) to help clients succeed. When our clients are successful, so are we. Together, we can conquer the world—one app at a time. Editor’s Note:  If you’re interested in reading about our most recent work for a retailer, check out A.C. Moore Case Study and the Inventory Management App our team has created for this retailer’s team. Watch the full Case Study Video for A.C. Moore below. ac-moore-inventory-management-app-video

The Buzz Around Beacons

The Buzz Around Beacons

Business Insider recently published an article exploring the world of beacon technology. Many companies from airports to retailers are already using beacon technology. Being app developers ourselves, we pay close attention to anything that presents opportunity in mobile.

If you’re new to the concept, a beacon is a small device that broadcasts a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) signal. That signal contains the beacon’s unique identifiers, called a UUID, and a few other data points about it.  Beacons don’t record data, store information or send push alerts. All of that happens through an app.

A real-world example:
I’m attending SXSW, one of the hottest interactive, film and music festivals in the world held in Austin, TX. The official SXSW mobile app was enabled by beacons which significantly improved my registration experience by getting an alert containing my Registration QuickCode when I was in the vicinity of the SXSW registration booth. They also placed 50+ beacons at various event venues in and around the Austin Convention Center allowing SXW to welcome me to a session, encourage me to join discussions about a session within the SXSW app, see which other attendees were at that session and view tweets related to that session.

For a smartphone to be able to detect and make use of a beacon, it must meet four criteria.

(1)  the end user must have an app installed that recognizes beacons
(2)  the device must be Bluetooth enabled
(3)  the user must opt-in to share location with the app
(4)  the device must be running iOS 7 or higher or Android 4.3 or higher

The initial lure and marketing hype around beacons centers on real-time notifications. Installing beacons in merchandising areas enables you to send shoppers location-aware, targeted notifications, branded content and personalized offers. Within seconds or less of detecting a beacon, the app decodes the signal and delivers a push alert to the device: “Welcome to Starbucks. Free Mini-Scone with Purchase of a Drink. Today Only!”

Perhaps you’re taking the family to Marvel’s “Heroes on Ice” tour. The app detects a beacon at the venue, then serves up content relevant to that context. The user opens the app and sees “Best Restaurants Downtown.”

Additionally, the app sends push notifications alerting you to content relevant to your current location, or nearby advertisers. This more active approach builds upon the first two examples, but uses a combination of beacon technology and push notifications to prompt action from the user.

As more companies around the globe deploy beacons, we end up with a network of physical places that each have their own digital bookmark. A beacon gives a location its own real-world “URL,” or a way to identify and connect the physical and digital realms.

Knowing this digital footprint of locations empowers companies to understand how an opted-in audience navigates through the world. What are people shopping for? How often? When do they typically visit?

Data built over time is the key to unlocking valuable audience understanding, which companies can use to improve local, regional, and national sales. Better audience data equals better products, happier users, more engagement, more effective campaigns, and ultimately more revenue opportunities.

Testing and innovating with beacons is absolutely worth pursuing in 2015 in parallel to using proven sources like Facebook, Twitter, Google.  Bridging the mobile revenue gap is top priority, and requires new tactics and audience understanding. Beacons offer potential solutions to both.

Image Credit:  Estimote Beacons