The Internet of Things (IoT) has now invaded all aspects of life, from cars to homes to smartphones, and even in healthcare, manufacturing, and other industries. It has even been felt in retail: The industry is now utilizing mobile technology and beacons to better serve and get more information about its customers and operations.
A Pew Research Center Internet Project report showed that an overwhelming percentage of technology experts (83%) think that the Internet of Things will have beneficial and widespread effects in people’s everyday lives by 2025. These experts also think that the digitalization and datafication will happen, and it will be for about every human action. They also forecasted that wearable devices will be used by more and more people through 2025. In short, technology experts think that wearables and the Internet of Things in general will become mainstream in about ten years.
The technology of the IoT will also affect retail services. Using mobile technology and beacons, throwing connectivity into the mix, there are many improvements possible in the retail industry. The Internet of Things will be bringing on improvements especially in supply chain management, marketing, in-store experience, and inventory management.
In supply chain management, for instance, you can use the Internet of Things to help you put identifiers that would tell you what raw materials are intended for a product, or what products are meant for which customer. This would help you cut down on your inventory and its attendant costs, and also to improve your logistics. Currently, the flow of information is separated from the flow of materials.
In inventory and warehouse management, the Internet of Things can help alert you when shelves are emptying out. If your display merchandise is already running out, you can be alerted so that you could replenish it. Same thing with stocks in your warehouse. You could even have a robot do all of these for you, ensuring that you have well-stocked shelves without you having to do anything.
In marketing, the Internet of Things will enable a deeply targeted proximity marketing campaign in stores. Beacons in your store will be able to communicate with mobile devices that the customer has and retrieve information, such as browsing history, buying history, and social network activities so that your stores can come up with a more personalized experienced for a particular customer. For instance, Apple has the iBeacon, which an iPhone can intercept. The beacons would be able to give your customers more information about the particular product that he or she is interested in, and even offer discounts and deals on the product that the store is offering.
This leads us to the in-store experience of the future. For instance, grocery stores can use the Internet of Things to put up smartphones on its shopping carts. The smartphones will have an RFID component so that a customer can pay for his or her goods without having to line up at the counter. Or perhaps, the customer could use the Internet of Things and go around the grocery store and just scan the tags without having to pick anything up and put it in a shopping cart. As customers scan tags, somebody will be assembling the order, to be ready to be picked up and paid for at the counter. Clothing stores can utilize tags, cameras, and smartphones to allow shoppers to virtually try on a pair of jeans or a blouse.
You might think that having these systems in place and reaping the benefits from the Internet of Things would be very costly. For one, you would need to have these tags at an item level, and you would need to have the infrastructure to capture, gather, and analyze the data for your systems to be of any use to you.
The good news is that there are great developments in the Internet of Things and the retail industry that makes these innovations accessible even to the small businesses. Over recent years, the price of tags and sensors has fallen dramatically, making it much more affordable even for small retailers to deploy.
Then you also have services and solutions providers that can help you tap into the cloud and provide you an infrastructure to enable you to reap the benefits of the Internet of Things when you have a retail store. One such solution is Vend.
Vend is a retail solutions company that allows you to manage every aspect of your store from payments to accounting to inventory and even customer loyalty programs. It is currently used by at least 10,000 businesses that are based all around the world. The company is seeing a lot of opportunities that could come from the Internet of Things in general and interconnected devices in particular. This includes its ability to:
- Improve customer experience by personalization. Making use of beacons such as PayPal’s Beacon, iBeacon, and Estimote to deliver highly tailored communications to a shopper’s device.
- Intelligently manage operations in order to optimize profit and efficiency. All aspects of your operations will be interconnected. For instance, your point of sale (POS) system is integrated with your inventory system. This way, you can keep track of your inventory easily and in real time. This allows you to know your business fully, getting reports when you need it so that you could grow your store.
- Dynamically adjust to needs of customers in real time. Loyalty rewards are also integrated to your POS system, enabling you to implement loyalty programs effortlessly. This allows you to connect with your customers with personalized offers and deals, reward them for their loyalty, or refer friends to your business.
The result will be a transformation of retail to something both highly efficient and highly personal.