Technically, the term Internet of Things (IoT) refers to interconnected networks of internet enabled devices like analytics programs, AI software, networks, data hubs, microprocessors, sensors and other such objects. And the first ones to adopt this new trend are retailers. Implementation of IoT solutions has really helped retailers in controlling various aspects of their business.
The range of benefits extends from precise inventory management to better shopping experience, less theft, better store operations, and more conversions with cross selling. The retail based IoT is slowly beginning a new era where smart devices are taking care of data collection, sharing, and real-time analysis of information in a seamless manner.
Take example of Kaa which is one of the most popular IoT platforms. The portal has earned its reputation for infusing IoT into core of countless smart retail services. Their main areas of application included
● Providing customers with a more customized shopping experience by using Bluetooth beacons.
● Ensuring perennial availability of products on all shelves with least wastage and zero replenishment time.
● Setting up digital signages in stores to keep customers updated with latest offers and schemes and assist them in navigating through discount, loyalty programs, and new products.
● An enterprise-grade security system that ensured foolproof safety for mobile payment solutions, smart vending machines, as well as mobile vending machines.
According to a recent survey done by Retail Systems Research (RSR), maximum retailers are of the opinion that IoT is transforming the way of business within next few years. But the biggest question that surface is that why is retail the first one to adopt IoT? The answer is quite simple – the constant pressure to push sales higher, enhance margins and bring-in more and more business can only be resolved with a precise solution like IoT.
Now let’s understand the basic mechanics of retail world. The key to succeed in retail business is effective consumer engagement that retains them for as long as possible. And the only way to do that is by maintaining an agile and smart supply chain. It should be flawless and intact which means it should be in a condition to take “self” healing measures all by itself and conduct predictive maintenance minimizing downtime of systems and machinery involved in it. Here are some interesting stories that will make our case in a stronger way :
The core of consumer engagement is taking good note of digital footprint of buyers. To pursue this task, the store needs to apply fusion algorithms. Addition of predictive intelligence in these algorithms helps the retailers who then provide context based customized recommendations and better deals targeted at their consumers. For example, a London based startup – Dandy Lab, came up with a pop-up that showcased a highly relevant consumer journey. They utilized Wi-Fi routers, Cisco data analytics, and Wi-Fi routers to make the connection. A flat screen was connected with an Near Field Communication (NFC) terminal for immediate ‘read outs’, the styling wall was directly connected to a webcam, shelves were embedded with tablet screen and the best part they installed a Cisco DX70 video conferencing system giving staff and buyers a direct access to suppliers and manufacturers. They could let them know face-to-face about alterations and designs they expect or want in near future.
Similarly, Costa Coffee collaborated with Intel foor development of a SVM (Smart Vending Machine) that featured several advance concepts like loyalty card connectivity, remote temperature check, cashless payments as well as a digital screen that allowed direct interaction with consumer. They installed these services in all their host stores. These machines were able to provide them with some real-time data that included alerts for restocking, faults addressing, and the spot on time to collect cash. The firm was able to mitigate its overstocking losses and were able to provide the customer with a much better coffee vending experience.
The traditional supply chain is quite rigid and definitely need redemptions to meet the obstacles and hassles of digital world. The advent of sensor technologies and IoT has turned that into a possibility. There are several amazing innovations like smart shelves based on “RFID” that scans all items over the shelf keeping all related systems informed about the latest status of inventory. When they reach the out of stock or low stock situation, these shelves instantly create a demand alert and send that requirement to the central warehouse automatically. Do you know MIT Media Lab recently came up with a fleet of drones called RFly that could hover through dense corners of a warehouse and keep check of inventory. The barcodes were replaced with RFID tags that shortened the identification process. It is a very crucial development for all retail stores, if you remember Wal Mart lost $3 billion because of out of stock merchandise as its inventory was expanding at a much faster pace than its sales.
More and more firms are looking for prediction of equipment failure before it happens rather than taking up actions after the damage is done. The technical advances in embedded devices and sensors, numerous sensors are getting embedded in manufacturing devices and several techniques like machine learning methods, latest data fusion algorithms that are implemented in the stream of data communication and keep failures at bay through regular maintenance. In coming days, the future trend will be about offering optimum maintenance before the system fails. It will be much more ahead of it as it will introduce self healing mechanisms that would eliminate the case of failures completely.
Now let’s hear out another interesting story. Home Depot recently integrated IoT in its working to design a next-generation customer engagement program. This one works through their mobile app where the prospects are able to search products through ‘visual search’ and locate the inventory within moments as they enter the store. They can also make comparison of products with others and take professional opinion for their DIY projects. It also provides them with a preview of how their selected products will look into their home.
Ocado, a UK based online supermarket, recently came up with largest automated packaging system that used wireless control system. This new strategy has enabled the firm to coordinate and control movement of millions of grocery products and speed up the delivery process as soon as the order is placed. The firm also employed one thousand robots that scanned across thousands of crates that contained more than 50 thousand products in them. These highly efficient and choreographed systems are working aggressively to minimize the time gap between order placement and final delivery.
Specifically, retailers are looking forward to imply Internet of Things in three prime areas – supply chain, customer experience and generation of new channels for revenues. Whether they adopt IoT for one of these or all three, either will result into huge benefits for firm as well as customer.
To conclude, the world of retail is taking a 360 degree turn with the help of IoT as countless breakout trends are getting into this world. This is just the beginning as sky is the limit for those who have imagination and IoT on their side. Stay with us and we will keep bringing more on this topic to you.
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