Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Retail: Pros and Cons

We go everywhere with our phones. They have made a home for themselves in our back pockets, in our purses, in the cup holders of our cars. They sit next to us at the dinner table, and beside us when we sleep. We even bring them into the bathroom. (TMI?)

If we’re used to bringing our personal technology with us wherever we go, why would work be excluded from that conversation? Couldn’t our phones be a useful tool in allowing us to get our job done more efficiently?

Retailers are confronting this conversation with their employees in 2019, working through the highs and lows that could be associated with allowing staff to use their phones in the workplace. While there are immediate concerns about distraction and inefficiency, there are definite benefits to implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in your grocery store.


Pros of Bring Your Own Device Policies

Decreased costs

The most straightforward benefit of a Bring Your Own Device policy is that employees are bringing their own devices – which means that you don’t have to supply them with expensive tools in order for them to get their jobs done.

AKA, when you don’t have to supply your employees with tablets, laptops, smartphones that can act as scanning devices, etc., you experience a multitude of savings in your P&L. 

According to a Cisco report, “companies with a BYOD policy in place save on average $350 per year, per employee. Reactive programs can boost that savings to as much as $1,300 per year, per employee.”


Real-time answers for your customers

Service is a key factor to maintaining an excellent customer experience. Your shoppers expect to be able to ask your sales associates any question that comes to mind, and receive an answer instantaneously.

Allowing your employees to bring their devices with them on the floor and access company inventory, policy, and dietary information with that device, gives them the confidence that they can provide an answer for their customers. This makes for an overall better customer experience, and builds trust between your shoppers and your stores. 


Engaged, efficient staff

A BYOD policy can be used as a tool to attract talented employees to your business. 44% of job seekers view an organization more positively if it supports their device, according to a report in InformationWeek.

In-store, a BYOD policy encourages your employees to be more engaged and efficient. Here are the cold, hard facts, according to a study by Sapho:

  • Workers save 81 minutes a week by using their own devices
  • 78% of workers feel BYOD supports better work-life balance
  • 56% of IT workers believe BYOD has completely changed their company’s culture


Increased employee value

Employee efficiency and engagement are just the beginning when it comes to the benefits of BYOD. Once you’ve implemented your own policy for your grocery stores, the value of your employees to your company will also increase.

According to Cisco, BYOD creates an annual average value of $1,650 per employee when implemented effectively.


Boosted management productivity

BYOD not only makes it simpler for retail associates to do their job when they’re on the sales floor, it also it makes it easier for them to communicate with their managers. According to a new study from WorkJam, “about two-thirds of hourly retail employees say they would use their personal cell phones to access information about scheduling changes or company training—two areas often cited as “pain points” when they quit jobs.”


Avoid organizational costs associated with high turnover

As a grocer, you know that your staff grows and shrinks with the seasons, and that you need to hire extra people when the holidays come around. If you provide new devices for every employee that joins your staff, it’s likely that you’ll encounter times during the year where you have a surplus of devices that you’re still paying for, in addition to the data plan that you need to keep active in case you hire a new employee.


Cons of Bring Your Own Device Policies


The thought of having employees out on the store floor with their preferred devices elicits images of stockboys slacking off in favor of Snapchat and cashiers who take Instagram breaks when they could be helping a customer.

It’s a valid worry. Schools have been banning phones from their premises for the past few years after incessant distraction and disciplinary issues involving cell phones in the classroom. According to recent research from Social Psychology, your phone even distracts you if it’s nearby but you’re not using it.

The thought of distracted employees alone could be enough to convince you to pass on a BYOD policy – and that’s completely warranted.


Security concerns

Your IT Director may have a few bones to pick with you if you bring up the idea of a BYOD policy. While employee engagement and costs may be your chief concerns, it’s likely that they’ll have a litany of security issues to add to your list.

Along with having access to the information that they need to do their jobs well, employees will be using their personal devices to access secure data, which can raise major red flags, yet many companies don’t take the time to create formal regulations, leaving room for hacking and other forms of security breaches.

According to Intrinsic Technology, In the U.K., one-quarter (25%) of retailers allow employees to use personal devices on company networks without a formal policy in place. What’s worse, Sapho reports that ⅔ of employees have not activated even the most basic security features on their devices.

Personal devices can also be lost or stolen, and when companies don’t take proactive measures with their BYOD policy, those devices can be used to hack a company database remotely.


Lack of training and resources

Let’s be frank: adding a BYOD policy to your company’s handbook just adds one more thing to your already full plate. You know that a program this large doesn’t come without extra training, time away from the floor and away from paying customers, and extra financial resources. 

Unfortunately, many companies don’t take the time or the energy to make sure BYOD is done right. 80% of all BYOD is unmanaged due to lack of resources which puts security at risk, and 77% of employees have received no education as to the risks of using their own devices at work

It can be easy to try to skip the hard parts and start reaping the benefits right away, but when companies don’t take the time to ensure BYOD was implemented properly, they don’t see as great of an impact from the policy.


Overworked corporate networks

If you have one private server that each of your employees would connect to with their devices while they’re at work, you may find that your network becomes runs slower. Employees rely on fast internet speeds when interacting with a customer, so an overworked network could actually slow down their response time and leave the customer feeling frustrated.


Technical difficulties

When an employee’s phone breaks, is it up to the employer to provide a stipend to repair it? Do employees with older phones that lack new features and have short battery lives feel penalized by the BYOD policy? Is it the employee’s job to make sure that their phone is fully-charged before their shift, or do stores provide them with opportunities to charge their devices? 

Technical difficulties will arise when you let employees use their personal devices on the job. Before you activate your BYOD policy, it’s your job to create procedures that lay out how employees and managers should react to these unexpected roadblocks.