Retailers are no strangers to disruption, having been forced by online shopping to innovate and adjust their strategies to new consumer habits. The disruption is far from over, as the Internet of Things (IoT) creates new opportunities for brick-and-mortar stores to innovate by creating unique customer experiences. Despite the rumors, brick and mortar stores are here to stay and even thrive if they continue to pursue these innovations.
The potential for innovation and optimization extends from the backroom to the customer interface to the accounting department. Retailers that embrace digital transformation to leverage IoT technology stand to benefit in three major ways—enhance the customer experience both online and in store, optimize the supply chain, and develop new revenue opportunities.
Adopting IoT technology will require serious planning and meticulous implementation. And part of that will involve investing in edge computing, which places analytics and processing closer to the “things” in IoT and the people that use them.
Related: A Strategic Roadmap to Technology Deployment in Retail: Part 1
It won’t be long before edge computing sites become a common feature for retailers. For instance, out-of-the-way server closets in a warehouse will house the infrastructure and applications that enable real-time processing of supply chain systems without the lag or cost that might occur if the data had to constantly travel back and forth to the cloud.
At the stores, IoT-driven backroom technology such as RFID, real-time point of sale (POS), and smart shelving systems will improve the accuracy of inventory tracking throughout the supply chain. Automated inventory management can reorder items when needed without requiring humans to take inventory, making it easier to prevent shortages of popular items at peak times such as the holidays.
Where IoT innovation will have the highest visibility for retailers is in anything that touches the customer. The in-store experience has the potential to become substantially different from what we know today, as retailers endeavor to make it easier for customers to get information, get questions answered, and avoid long checkout lines.
For instance, some stores already use POS systems linked to tablets that let associates process transactions anywhere on the floor. In the near future, shoppers will be scanning barcode tags with smartphones that capture product information such as choice of color and features.
Smart fitting rooms equipped with augmented reality (AR) mirrors can show shoppers in different clothing without physically trying them on. Retailers also can deliver personalized coupons when shoppers walk into stores as Wi-Fi systems recognize customers who previously signed up to connect to the systems while in-store. Meanwhile, infrared beacon technology will generate heat maps that tell retailers about in-store traffic patterns, allowing them to better lay out the space.
All these systems that interface with customers will be connected to analytics applications that generate data which will help retailers make better business decisions to keep customers coming back with optimized store layouts, promotions they care about, and better product availability.
New Revenue Streams
Operational and customer experience enhancements will help create new revenue streams for retailers. Better digital synchronization between the in-store, online, and mobile experiences will boost customer loyalty and attract new customers.
Retailers also will have opportunities to launch new revenue-generating services to install and connect appliances connected to the IoT, and manage their software updates. They will have the option of partnering with IT Solution Providers or delivering the services themselves.
Retailers ready and willing to invest in IoT and edge computing technologies stand to gain an advantage against competitors who hesitate. Early adopters will be able to reap the benefits of digital transformation first. To get a jump on this opportunity, visit Connection’s APC showcase to learn more.