94 billion dollars! That’s how much the retail industry will be worth in 2025. Even a minuscule percent of it will be more than enough to live a happy life for a hundred years and it can be yours. But how? The key here is to understand the connection between IoT (Internet of Things) and the retail sector. It’s old news that the retail industry was almost killed by technology with the rise of e-commerce. But then, it was successfully resurrected by the same technology through IOT accompanied by an unexpected increase in the rise of millennials visiting retail stores.
In fact, the recently concluded Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping sprees has made the retail world sit back and take notice at some of the ways how IoT can transform the sector. As IoT is increasingly assimilated into real world applications, it will catapult retail industry right back to its glory days.
Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Maybe not. Let’s jump into some of the practical applications of IoT in everyday retail industry.
1. Smart Shelves
Ask any of your employees about their biggest challenge in their jobs and a majority will say the two following phrases – tracking items and misplacement.
Your employees spend a great deal of their time on tracking items to ensure they’re never out of stock and ensuring no items are misplaced and everything is on their respective shelves. This is where smart shelves come to your rescue; they automate the aforementioned tasks and, as an added bonus, detect potential thefts.
2. Automated Checkout
Customers hate long lines and to tackle this, they sometimes even drop some of their items from their shopping cart just to exit sooner. Besides the customers’ dissatisfaction about the long lines, as a manager, you need to hire more manpower to speed up the billing process, which can bite into your profits in a big way.
IoT tackles the employee crunch problem, especially during rush hours, by pairing cameras and sensors, and setting up a system to read tags on each item the customers buy. A checkout system will then automatically deduct the amount of purchase from the customer’s account after they walk out. Amazon Go has used this application to great effect.
3. Bluetooth Beacon
A fail-proof feature of retail stores that brings back customers to theirs shops repeatedly are discounts and offers. If you are going to announce a discount, special offers or events, then it is important you market it well.
This is where Bluetooth Beacons come in. They can send alerts to smartphones based on location proximity. So, when an existing customer is near a shop, with the app of the store/brands installed, they will receive an alert on their smartphones about various ongoing discounts and offers. Besides customers in-store, beacons also send alerts to anyone passing by the shop, immediately making them a potential customer.
4. Robust Inventory Maintenance
A well-maintained inventory can improve customer satisfaction drastically. IoT-enabled supply chain will help you maintain an intelligent inventory that deals with more than just units and measures.
Using RFID and tags, you can monitor essential details such as expiry date, temperature, demand etc, which will also help you prevent wastage as well as a shortage.
5. Next Level Geo-Tracking
With the intervention of IoT, you can do away with the basic shipment tracking feature allowed by most e-commerce companies these days. Connecting GPS with IoT can enable highly detailed tracking of shipments through sensors, especially when transporting fragile or perishable commodities. Smart geo-tracking is preferred by both supply chain managers and customers who wish to manage things more closely.
6. Improved Store layout
You don’t want to make your customers wade through aisles of unwanted products in order to find what they need. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you have all the products you need under one roof.
However, there is a drawback to it. Having everything under one roof can get a little too overwhelming. Retail stores can use infrared sensors and analytics software to arrange present stocks neatly and also find out whether the present layout needs changes or not.
7. A true omnichannel experience
IoT-enabled instruments such as sensors, subscriptions, beacons, etc are transforming how businesses reach out to customers. Using a unified solid data foundation, generated via multiple IoT sources, can help you offer a uniform experience across all channels to your customers.
There comes a time in any industry where it looks like it is facing an imminent death. Even long-time loyalists might end up abandoning the ship. The same thing happened to the retail industry. It was almost on the verge of dying, thanks to technology and online shopping, but like a true phoenix bird, it rose from the ashes. With IoT drastically changing the playing field, the next gen retail experience has truly arrived and is here. You can either jump on it or be left behind. But If you do jump, then as I promised in the beginning, you will have your share of that $ 94 billion sector.