The Internet of Things is revolutionising retail

The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the retail sector is expanding rapidly.

This demonstrates a constant need to increase customer loyalty and offer an optimal in-store experience. According to a new research report by Global Market Insights, the IoT market should exceed $30 billion by 2024 in the retail sector. Since 2016, mass retail has shown real interest in what the Internet of Things contributes to in stores. In 2016, Verizon found that retail firms were realising the potential of the IoT and were already enthusiastic about the future of this technology:

  • 77% of retailers thought IoT solutions contributed to improving the customer experience.
  • 89% of early adopters in retail stated that IoT helped them to better understand customer preferences.
  • 77% of very early adopters in the retail sales sector said that the IoT allowed them to better cooperate with partners to provide customers with high-quality products and services.

Here are a few examples of how the IoT is used in mass retail.

The IoT in retail with robots

Robots have the potential to affect the sector. In order to become pioneers and benefit from a strong competitive advantage, many firms have already integrated robots into their daily activity to give customers information or do in-store stock checks. Brands such as Target have robots that move round the store and spot items that are in the wrong place or products that are out of stock.

By taking charge of simple inventory tasks, the robot frees up employees to focus on helping customers. At Lowe’s, the robot developed by the start-up Fellow is used to help customers find a product at the point of sale.

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Optimising logistics chain management

Retail brands can already logistically track products between manufacturers and store warehouses without help from the Internet of Things but tracking information is often limited.  With RFID (Radio-frequency identification) and GPS (Global Positioning System) sensors, the IoT means they can have far more accurate data, such as the item’s storage temperature and the transfer time between the warehouse and store. Stores often have a long list of suppliers and delivery firms; the IoT improves knowledge of the location of an item in the supply chain.

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Digital signage

Digital signage helps stores to offer a personalised and interactive purchasing experience. In-store digital monitors and/or tablets allow retailers to attract customers’ attention and increase their sales. With digital signage applications, marketing specialists save on traditional printed materials and take customer engagement to the next level.

These solutions can also contribute to improving the in-store experience using the Internet of Things. These monitors can actually show announcements or price changes in real time. They can display not only adverts and catalogues, but also personalised promotions based on data collected in store and in real time. Retailers are integrating the IoT into points of sale and shopping centres. MarketsandMarkets expects the value of the global digital display market to rise from $19.60 billion in 2016 to $32.85 billion by 2023.

iBeacon transmitters

iBeacons, launched by Apple in 2013, are small Bluetooth devices that send alerts to smartphones based on their location. In the retail sector, this means that customers can receive price reductions or invitations to events when they find themselves near a store and have already downloaded the store’s application. In the US, Macy’s has used iBeacon transmitters nationwide since 2014. 

After opening the Macy’s application in store, customers are notified of promotions and discounts. The application also geolocates customers in store. So if someone goes into the makeup section, the application will send them offers for products in this department.

Image via[/caption] And to help customers in store, the transmitters also send alerts to passers-by. This can be used to effectively announce in-store promotions or events. In addition to Macy’s, brands such as Urban Outfitters, CVS, Lord & Taylor and Timberland already use iBeacon transmitters. This technology created a real buzz when it was launched by Apple but has struggled to really break through and become an essential Internet of Things tool.

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Smart labels

Connected labels are used to change product prices and information in store and in real time. By connecting them to the vendor’s information system, customers automatically receive updated information, giving them a better idea about the product. Very recently, Amazon used this type of label in its new store in New York to offer the same price as on its website.

And tomorrow, lighting!

The future of the Internet of Things in mass retail will be in lighting. Mass retail chains will use ever more LED lightbulbs, and changing them will give new technological solution providers the opportunity to, for instance, offer to connect these lightbulbs to 5G boxes. Providing the same type of experience in store as online requires retailers to collect relevant information about customers, in the same way as is done for online purchasing trends.

This allows stores to provide targeted coupons, based on each customer's browsing and purchase history. The lighting solutions provided by the Internet of Things (IoT) can resolve problems encountered by retailers by facilitating the in-store customer experience. The data collected by these solutions, such as the purchaser’s location, can be used to help customers to find products in store, receive information in real time about products they’re near to, and even call a store employee to identify items.

Lighting manufacturers and technology firms are creating new lighting system use cases that offer solutions to customers’ problems. Indoor lighting-based positioning systems are one area of interest for retail. They allow retailers to create a multichannel approach.

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The IoT is transforming retail and making it innovate, which benefits end customers. Integration of IoT solutions will allow retail brands to:

  • Create marketing campaigns that are a success because they’re based on customer behaviour,
  • Provide high-quality services
  • Improve stock management and reduce operating costs.

It will also improve customer knowledge and the in-store experience. The IoT is revolutionising the future of retail!