IoT in Retail
Cleverly, utilising IoT-enabled devices in a retail environment has the potential to bring considerable benefits to all parties. Store managers can gain useful, real-time insights about their customers and employees, customers can receive promotions and offers perfectly tailored towards their needs and employees can take inventory quicker than ever before and leave mundane tasks up to robots. While some of these use cases, such as automated check-outs and robot employees may seem a little futuristic, they are already being applied by several retailers with the help of IoT.
IoT in Retail
Even though retail companies won’t find universal IoT applications, that will magically solve all of their common problems and challenges, there are many individual, small-scale solutions offered by developers of IoT systems, which help organisations improve their ROI in a highly competitive market. Companies are able to create a robust IoT infrastructure at a smaller scale, which can later be expanded if proven to be successful. Managing internal processes more efficiently is a big factor in the retail space. Let’s examine the many different ways, retail companies can benefit from effectively incorporating IoT systems into their infrastructures.
Inventory management is vital to any retail business. It is no doubt one of the most time-consuming tasks for employees. They have to make sure that the items are not out of stock, misplaced or even stolen.
The concept of smart shelves helps employees to keep track of inventory, as well as to detect potential theft. Smart shelves rely on RFID tags, RFID readers and antennas. These provide information when items are running low or placed incorrectly on a shelf. Ultimately, the RFID tag which is connected to an RFID reader, can detect in-store theft, which saves costs for cameras and security personnel.
In a fast-paced world, no one wants to spend precious time, waiting in line at the checkout counter at the grocery store. It is also unprofitable for managers to pay multiple employees to work the cash registers during peak hours. IoT can help set up a system that recognizes tags on each product, as a customer leaves the store. The system will verify and calculate the items, then automatically deduct the final price from the balance of the customer’s mobile payment application. No lines at the cashier is a win/win situation for everyone involved. It helps retailers save a lot of money while increasing customer satisfaction.
Amazon’s Go Stores are at the forefront of smart retailing. The stores’ concept is revolutionary as it relies on geofencing and smartphone technology to improve the customer journey and inventory management. However, the actual execution of these concepts can prove difficult as was the case with the opening of Amazon Go’s prototype location in Seattle. The opening was delayed as the store’s sensors had difficulties tracking multiple users within the store and other challenges, such as children moving products from one shelf to another.
Discounts and Loyalty Programs are a great way to show appreciation for returning customers. IoT sensors can be set up around the store and distribute loyalty discounts to customers who have signed up for the store’s loyalty program when they stand near discounted products with their smartphones. Moreover, IoT can also track items that a customer has been looking online and send that customer a personalized discount when they visit the stores. Instead of offering general discounts on numerous products, each discount can be specifically tailored for an individual customer in order to maximize conversion rates.
It requires creativity and foresight to effectively integrate IoT devices into everyday business, but incorporating IoT solutions does offer many benefits. It can help a business discover groundbreaking solutions to attract more loyal, long-term customers.
Beacon devices were first introduced in 2013 by Apple. Beacons are tiny Bluetooth devices that automatically send alerts to a smartphone when a customer is within proximity of the sensor. Customers will receive relevant information about discounts, special events, exciting offers, etc. as they approach the store and have already downloaded the store’s app.
Many popular stores are already using beacons, including Urban Outfitters, Timberland CVS and Macy’s. After launching the Macy’s app in 2014, shoppers are alerted to discounts and promotions. The app also recognises which area of the store you’re in, for example, when you’re in the makeup area, the app will remind you of the makeup brands that you liked online.
Additionally, beacons also send alerts to passersby. Starbucks is already using this concept. When passing by, people will get notifications about new coffee brews, exciting promotions and are invited to visit. According to RT Insights, this campaign has proven to be very successful. It increases publicity and attracts new customers.
In-store Layout Optimization
In-store layout optimization intends to optimise customers’ shopping experience to increase profitability. Planning the in-store layout can be very tricky. It is possible for the most in-demand products to be put in the back and the least popular products to be put in the front. Using IoT aisle analytics software with infrared sensors can help improve the retail outlet’s layout. This technology provides further insights into a customer’s behavior and their shopping preferences.
Employing Robots saves the cost for retailers and spare the store’s staff the trouble of dealing with menial tasks. The newest robot employee in Lowe’s called OSHbot, helps the customer find specific products and also provides information on promotions and inventory. The robot moves around the store to collect data on misplaced items and items that are running out of stock.
Optimizing Supply Chain Management
Tracking products without IoT is possible, but the tracked information will likely be very limited. RFID and GPS sensors can use IoT to obtain more precise data, including location, humidity, temperature, movement, handling, light levels, and other environmental factors. Managers can use the data to improve the efficiency and quality of the transportation of products, as well as the products themselves.
However, these IoT devices will need a stable network connection to function well, as they need to transmit their position to GPS satellites. Other IoT type devices may also require WiFi, or Bluetooth connectivity.