E-commerce and online warehouse giants have made nearly any product imaginable available with the click of a button. While e-commerce may be the big future of retail, shoppers still enjoy the brick-and-mortar retail experience. That doesn't mean that the in-store experience can't be as digitized or intelligent as the online, customized and personalized one. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and developing new devices to work with it to create a more interactive retail experience will unlock the future for brick-and-mortar retail.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things is the concept of the connectivity of any Internet-connected devices that can communicate with each other and/or send information to a Cloud storage system. IoT–applications are a huge key to unlocking the future of brick and mortar retail because it can connect disparate things and make them work together.
How does it work?
A shopper's phone, for example, can become a barcode scanner, and then a checkout/cashier device, while also helping the store track its inventory as the sale is fed back into the store's management system. As we have learned from many of these new technologies when it comes to retail, the more connected the customer and their devices are to the shopping experience and the retailer's technology, the more efficient operations become.
Practical Applications of IoT in Retail
There are two types of IoT technology in retail, the technology that interacts with shoppers and the technology that tracks inventory and/or shopper behavior. Amazon and Walmart are already testing different devices to improve not only their business operations, but also the experience of the customer in their stores.
Amazon is using IoT technology and AI to provide a check-out free shopping experience and Walmart is developing a smart shopping cart that will help shoppers find items in their stores. Smart mirrors are another means of creating an engaging and interactive shopping experience where customers can get shopping advice but also give feedback and reviews. Smart packaging can give in depth information about products, and smart lighting and thermostats can make retail stores more energy efficient. From the basics to the most advanced, there's an IoT application or smart technology that can be used in brick-and-mortar stores to improve the customer experience and the company's bottom line.
Advantages of Using IoT in Retail
An improved customer experience is important but not the only reason to consider adopting some sort of IoT technology in a brick and mortar store. Digitization of in-store inventory may be the most advantageous aspect of IoT in retail. Inventory is a notoriously complicated and error-ridden process that is greatly improved using RFID devices to optimize the process.
Tracking the movements of products in-store generates data that can increase conversion rates and drive in-store analytics. IoT technology can also lead to better supply chain integration and new revenue opportunities. When brick and mortar retail experiences continue to adopt IoT applications it will generate value growth for the entire retail industry as operations become more efficient. Many huge retailers are already working on ways to unlock their brick-and-mortar retail future through IoT applications which means the time to act is now. Retailers who want to remain competitive as the shopping experience becomes more and more digital need an adoption strategy for IoT applications that work for them.