Tractor Supply puts the power of data into the hands of its employees

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 31, 2023
The retail giant is using Honeywell devices and software to create a handheld platform for improved operational and customer service activities across 2,000 stores.


Tractor Supply Company is using Honeywell devices and software to give its staff real-time access to apps that are supporting smoother business operations and better customer experiences.

Rob Mills, Chief Technology Officer at Tractor Supply, says the rural lifestyle retailer has deployed 20,000 Honeywell's CT40XP mobile devices and implemented the provider’s cloud-based Operational Intelligence Professional software across more than 2,000 stores.

Tractor Supply has deployed the technology to streamline its operations and support end-to-end omni-channel experiences for its customers. The company was looking to solve three key business challenges – to provide quick and easy checkout to customers at any point in time; to use technology to make things simpler for team members; and to ensure there’s consistent communication between employees. Mills says: 

Our vision is for team members to not just use this device to do their daily tasks for running store operations, but to also use it as a sales-driving tool and to use customer data to help influence cross-sell and a new level of personalization.

As well as Honeywell’s cloud-based software, the devices hold a broad range of apps that help Tractor Supply employees fulfil a range of day-to-day responsibilities, including task management, price look-up, inventory management, and payments processing for customers. Mills says the move to Honeywell’s technology is part of a wider digital strategy:

We’ve really leaned into mobile-first, not just from a customer perspective, but also with our team members. It’s all about how you digitize our business, serve up real-time data for the team member in the store and to really bring that experience to life.

According to Mills, Tractor Supply’s customer base values the knowledge of the company’s team members. The mobile-first strategy aims to use the Honeywell devices to inform the 29 million customers that use the firm’s loyalty program:

We have a lot of information about their purchases and their preferences around their animals and their properties. When they come into the store, we want to be able to take that information and, allied to the team members’ knowledge, really fuel what we call a personalized experience.

Smoother processes

The Honeywell devices are also helping to support operational process improvements. Mills gives the example of a mobile point-of-sale app that supports what he refers to as “line busting”, which is where employees can checkout customers at anytime from anywhere in the store:

Our mindset is that our customers are busy. And when they're busy, we don't want them to face a queue where there’s three, four or five customers waiting. So, we’re using the devices to service them on their terms.

Mills also gives the examples of merchandising deliveries. New deliveries come off trucks and can be scanned by employees with their devices, so they immediately know which aisle the products needs to go to. When it comes to providing consistent communications, the IT team at Tractor Supply has ensured the Honeywell devices are integrated with the Theatro earpieces that staff members wear on the shop floor, says Mills: 

So, when daily sales goals are already met at two o'clock in the afternoon, how do we drive recognition and push out a mass notification through their earpieces as well as through their mobile devices? Or how do we recognise someone in real time for signing up 10 customers to the loyalty program within the last hour?

The aim is to help staff make better decisions and improve customer experiences. He gives the example of using the technology to let staff members know a customer is waiting for a propane gas refill. By using the Honeywell platform, the retailer has cut the duration of an average propane refill by 93%, from seven minutes to 30 seconds. Mills says:

We can immediately notify the team member to go out and interact with the customer. And then they can use the device – either with videos or content – to cross-sell and talk about other benefits. This approach simplifies things for the customer, but we're also leveraging the devices for communication, training and education.

Tractor Supply previously used Apple mobile devices and team member feedback suggested there were issues with durability, battery life and reliability. When they were procuring replacement devices, Glenn Allison, VP for Customer-facing Applications at Tractor Supply, said his team spent time with staff to ensure their challenges were overcome. After a thorough test-and learn evaluation process, they selected Honeywell:

We’ve developed an integrated, end-to-end solution with an accelerated rollout. We went from pilot to full-chain rollout in less than a year, with the majority of the stores receiving several of the devices within a couple of months.

The first devices were rolled out in late 2021. The IT team worked with Honeywell to hone its implementation of the technology as they received feedback from team members during the full rollout during 2022. As well as the 20,000 CT40XP devices and supporting software, Mills says Tractor Supply has continued to expand its capabilities, including the implementation of Honeywell docking stations, so the devices can be used as touchscreens for other uses cases, such as displaying video content to customers on a bigger screen: 

This technology will offer us the opportunity to take the point of sale to a point of interaction with the customer anywhere within the store. The work we’re doing now is all about driving a level of personalisation for our customers.

According to Mills, the Honeywell devices have led to a step change in operational activities and customer experiences. The devices offer long battery life, enhanced durability, long-range scanning for inventory, contactless payment options, and access to retail apps to enhance productivity. Honeywell is also providing on-demand support to Tractor Supply.

In conclusion, Mills says the long-term benefits of the technology are clear and he advises other digital leaders to create a similarly strong business proposition:

Let's not try to boil the ocean. Have a couple of really strong use cases with clear change management processes within the store. Make sure there's a solid understanding of what the success criteria will look like.


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