A growing need to increase customer loyalty and deliver the best in-store experience is driving the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the retail industry. Retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart are adopting IoT technology in their brick-and-mortar operations. Other retailers are expected to follow the trend to catch up with the industry leaders. Here are 5 examples of IoT technology that looks promising for retail.
Video surveillance cameras can be used as IoT sensors in retail environments to track how shoppers move around and engage with bricks-and-mortar spaces. Amazon Go is an example of the concept in play. It is a cashier-less store wired up with cameras and sensors that track a shopper’s every move. Every product picked up and then dropped in a bag. Every label read and product replaced on the shelf. Every hesitation, head nod, etc. are all kept tracked. Retailers can gather enormous amount of data and turn them into insights for new services.
Another retail giant, Walmart is making use of facial recognition to identify shoppers who are unhappy or frustrated. They use the data to tell associates to open new checkout lines.
Robots can replace human for mundane tasks. For example, Walmart is using shelf-scanning autonomous robots in their stores. The robots scan aisles for out-of-stock items, things that were put in the wrong place by customers, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels. They continuously go up and down the aisles of the store, alerting human employees to the errors they see. With robots performing these mundane tasks, workers can spend more time to help customers and improve customer services.
On the other hand, robots can be used to serve customers. Lowes is using the LoweBot at select stores to help customers find items within the vast home improvement store. LoweBot can speak multiple languages. Shoppers can tell the robot what they are looking for – a specific type of screw, for example – and have the robot guide them to its exact location on the shelf.
Smart shelves are shelves in a store that have been equipped with RFID reader. The reader consistently notifies the back-end system about the existing items and their movement by continuously scanning the RFID tagged items on the shelves. By tracking items’ movements and identification of misplaced items, workers will be able to check inventory and stock of goods in real time. It helps retailers avoid the overstocking of goods and got notified if anything is falling short. Retailers can also use the data to understand the tastes and preferences of their shoppers. The valuable information helps retailers to improve customer experience and boost sales. In addition, smart shelves also prevent theft of goods as each product has an RFID tag connected to RFID reader.
Virtual Fitting Rooms
Virtual fitting rooms use 3D scanning technologies that allow shoppers to see what specific items might look like on them. Virtual fitting rooms can be coupled with a personal digital assistant that makes recommendations based on information given by the customer, the customer’s dimensions, purchase history, and current sales within the store. Customers can do a virtual try-on of garments for a quick comparison and also share the images with their social network to get instant feedback from friends.
Products with RFID tags can be automatically recognized by the virtual fitting rooms. Customers can see available inventory in the store and request different size / style through the computerized mirror.
A personalized profile that is accessible in all stores and online will be created for the customers. Customers may continue online try-ons at home, and perhaps at the store window during closing hours. It keeps customers engaged and make them more confident in their purchases. Retailers can also grow revenue by providing in-store digital screens for customers to order products that are not in stock in-store.
Sensors and Smart Beacon Technology
Beacon is a small Bluetooth radio transmitter that uses low-energy Bluetooth connections to automatically send push notifications to customers’ mobile phones as soon as they approach stores. Personalized offers and rewards can be sent to potential customers in real time as they come in close proximity. Retailers may even show products customers had previously “liked” while browsing the web, when in the vicinity of that product in the store.
Beacon technology also collects data on customers’ locations. Retailers can see where customers spend the majority of their time in the store and what areas are most frequently visited. This could help retailers better determine store layouts and where the products should be placed.
Above are a few examples of how IoT can increase customer loyalty, boost sales, offer personalized customer experience, and improve inventory management in the retail industry. The adoption of IoT technology will continue to grow. Future success of retailers will depend on how quickly they can turn data about products, customers, and locations into insights, and then how quickly they can turn those insights into actions. If you haven’t created your digital roadmap yet, it is certainly time to do so.