IoT is reshaping the retail industry
The Internet of Things (IoT) allows for the interconnectivity of devices and as the retail industry becomes more and more digital, it opens up the path for data and technology to be used by brands in order to connect with their consumers and expand their businesses.
The main use of IoT for retail stores is the improvement it provides on customer experience.
Personalized Customer Experience
By making use of all the customer data available, brands can better understand what their customer is looking for, and what triggers certain actions by them.
This combination of data and the Internet of Things helps brands provide a more personalized shopping experience to each customer both in-store and outside of the physical store. How? Through the use of devices such as store sensors, it becomes possible to send notifications to customers regarding their favorite products or discounts while they are inside the store.
Another option is the use of beacons which use Bluetooth to engage with customers nearby and encourage them to enter the store and make a purchase.
Another use of IoT is related to supply chain management.
Connected devices help improve inventory management by accurately identifying and tracking items. These items can be tracked from the moment they are shipped to the moment they reach the warehouse. The conditions in which the items are expected to arrive can also be identified. Meaning that if a product perishes or is mishandled and gets ruined, warehouse managers will quickly become aware of this and take it into consideration as far as inventory goes.
This allows businesses to be aware of their inventory at all times and avoids situations such as orders of items that turn out not to be available which can be a source of discontentment to consumers.
It also increases the efficiency of warehouse staff as it helps them organize and manage the warehouse, therefore reducing the costs of personnel.
More and more, convenience is at the very top of consumers’ priorities.
To meet this demand, big stores are already moving towards cashier-free models, such as the Amazon Go stores, in which, through the use of cameras, beacons, and RFID readers, consumers can grab what they want and have these purchases automatically charged to their credit cards without having to wait in line to pay.
Although Amazon is the pioneer in this specific cashier-free model, other stores are beginning to introduce checkout-free systems through which consumers can scan the products on their phone and pay for them via services such as Apple Pay. An example of this is Sainsbury’s in London.
As the use of voice for browsing increases in popularity, businesses will have to adapt their online communication to different types of queries and search terms in order not to decrease their online presence.
This is especially the case for retail brands. Why? Because of AI-powered voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. As the use of these devices becomes more common, consumers will begin to use them to order products online, among other things.
As such, these brands have an opportunity to start adjusting their online presence and SEO efforts to voice searches so they can be ready and ahead of the competition when this type of browsing takes over the market.
The retail industry will be extremely affected, in a good way, by the IoT. If used properly it can bring massive advantages to retail brands and help them step into the future.
When it comes to customer experience, connected devices can help increase sales and bring more customers through the door.
However, many customers still consider personalized marketing to be very intrusive so brands should tread lightly when using IoT systems and technologies to target users, as it can very well backfire when done excessively or in the wrong way. If users feel intruded upon or as if they have had their privacy invaded, they will develop a bad connection to your brand and that is hard to come back from.
A positive way in which to use these technologies to reinforce customers’ ties to a brand is through the smart shopping systems that have been slowly popping up in some stores.
These systems are a clear example of how omnichannel is important to answer consumers’ needs. Brands are increasingly working towards connecting the offline and online channels in order to offer consumers a seamless purchasing experience which is made possible by product recognition technologies and, ultimately, the Internet of Things.