Despite all the talk about the Internet of Things becoming the future of tech, retail IoT is still a distant concept for many businesses. Part of the hesitation has something to do with managers not knowing what to do with volumes of new data that no one had to worry about over 20 years ago. While IoT has obvious utility for companies that sell data, there hasn’t been a lot of talk yet how it can benefit the retail industry.
Here are some important IoT use cases for retailers to consider:
Key IoT Developments
- Big data analytics
- Personalized tracking
- Cloud computing
- Data processing at the edge of a network
- Artificial intelligence and automation
- Beacons that connect shoppers with products
These developments since the early 2000s have reshaped the structure of business technology. Prior to these advancements, firms had to construct their own data solutions by combining software applications. Pioneers who helped pave the way for IoT include Intel, IBM, and Microsoft. Despite these accomplishments, many retailers worry about ROI. In other cases, IT teams haven’t learned how to incorporate IoT into their infrastructure yet.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
Over a decade ago, retail IoT was a new concept for supply chains to ponder. RFID chips were beginning to be embedded in every product imaginable, allowing products to be tracked from factories to warehouses to distributors to store displays. IoT was an excellent tool for measuring inventory counts and having access to accurate delivery timetables. Through its evolution, IoT has come to develop broader value, particularly with customer service.
So instead of IoT serving just internal business functions, it can answer questions for consumers and take on a more omnichannel role. By making inventory public information, like the way Amazon gives product counts, businesses have empowered customers to make decisions based on product availability when ordering online or even at brick-and-mortar establishments. For in-store shoppers, the rise of beacons has opened the door to alerting consumers through their smartphones about products within the store they may be seeking.
Retailers, however, need to rethink how beacons work. At first, they tried creating promotions out of beacons by bombarding consumers with coupons through email. However, consumers responded by blocking these announcements. Store managers need to view beacons as tools that connect the consumer’s digital life with the in-store locations of products without spamming people. They need to use more personalization so that the right messages get to the right people.
Connecting with Employees
Store employees are valuable assets to both retailers and customers because they provide the product knowledge that can help lead to purchasing decisions. That’s why retailers can enhance the customer experience even more by including a button in their app that requests assistance from an employee. It can lead to quick service and quicker conversions. This interaction can then be used for tracking how well the employee helped the consumer.
Convenience of Personalization
Personalization has entered modern marketing language mainly because it satisfies the need for consumers to avoid generic products that don’t meet their expectations. Thanks to the Internet, people no longer have to settle for one-size-fits-all products that don’t really fit. Consumers can either order the products they really want online or let brick-and-mortar stores know first-hand about their wish list.
The use of QR codes or NFC can empower consumers to activate opt-in offers on their mobile devices, regardless of location. Sensors can now detect what people want without them leaving their homes. With voice-activated assistants such as Alexa, it’s possible to order a wide range of products just by talking into your smartphone. This technology makes it even easier to order online, since it skips the step of manually looking for items in search engines.
The current issues that have slowed the development of retail IoT deal with not enough infrastructure to support expansion of data and not enough certainty that this technology will generate a return on investment. Retailers that invest in IoT can develop closer relationships with customers and in some cases, accelerate sales.