Many discussions regarding the transformation IoT can bring to businesses have focused around the natural adopters of IoT, such as transportation and manufacturing, with other sectors seeing exponential growth such as SMART Cities, agriculture, and health. However, one area often overlooked is the end user focused retail environment.
Firstly, let’s establish what the THINGS in the retail sector are.
In retail the “things” can include anything from infrared counters that track foot traffic, beacons that send notifications and discounts to shoppers mobiles in store, self updating digital signage, RFID tags that track inventory, customer mobile devices, smart mirrors, smart shelves, Wifi driven buttons ie. Amazon Dash Button, sensors, robots and facial recognition, just to name a few.
However how are these THINGS used in a retail environment?
You might not have heard of Smart shelves yet, but these monitor inventory in stores and send notifications that items out on the shop floor are running low, helping the store run much more efficiently especially during high footfall seasonal periods such as Christmas. RFID tags and tracking chips are becoming essential in high value stores with big brand products costing more than the high-street product, helping to minimise theft.
A more exciting “THING” some may think is still quite futuristic is the robot. For those who attended the MWC this past month in Barcelona you might have seen a few in action. Robots will not only take your order but deliver your meal in a restaurant, whilst others will take over the stockroom, managing inventories and stock takes—tasks that are often a retailer’s nightmare.
Another IOT driven function in retail—of which we are all most familiar with—is digital signage, these signs push ads and price changes to stores in real-time, targeting sales to consumers in and out of store. My personal favourite THING in the retail space is the SMART mirror. The perfect solution for shoppers who simply do not have the time or may not enjoy the tedious changing in and out of outfits while shopping, the SMART mirrors allow customers to virtually try on clothes saving plenty of time from all the added hassle of changing rooms.
We cannot discuss IoT in retail without mentioning the e-commerce giant Amazon. Amazon has not only been a game changer with its cashless and queue-less store Amazon Go, but is leading the way with the Amazon Dash Button, a Wi-Fi connected device that lets you reorder your favourite brand products simply by pushing a button.
These examples show the exciting potential IoT has for the future of retail—our future in-store shopping experiences will be filled with sensors that offer us valuable information, smart barcodes that shoppers can scan for added product information and facial recognition for a more personalised experience.
What are the benefits to the retailer?
Retailers can now understand the complete customer journey to identify purchasing opportunities and when they can contact and prompt the customer to buying.
- Predictive equipment maintenance used for managing energy, predicting equipment failure or detecting other issues.
- Smart transportation of merchandise through maintenance of transport, tracking and route optimization.
- Smart warehouse fulfilment including warehouse automation and robotics driven by online and in-store shopping demand.
- Connected consumers, who will provide valuable insights
- Smart Mall/Shopping Centres where mall traffic can be analysed across several retailers in order to understand the entire shopping journey.
With the rapid growth of the online store, the retailer’s goal now is to have that same limitless control in-store to manage the customer’s experience and collect detailed data to predict the customers buying behaviour.
The essential point is, most, if not all of IoT drivers in the retail space have to aid retailers in improving the customer’s shopping and buying experience. They have to improve efficiency in-store and the back office with inventory and warehouse management, whilst aiding in rich digital marketing in-store and online across all areas—be it incentives, events, product launches and any other sales elevating scenarios. However the differentiation with IoT will come from a retailer’s ability to sense, understand and act on IoT data with analytics.
Taking your first steps in IoT in retail? We can help. Contact us here and we’ll get you set up with an ecosystem of connectivity, devices, and solutions, all with actionable analytics.