Retail-an Iota of IoT

When it comes to adaptation of technology, Retail is one of the foremost sectors that have tangible and direct effects on the consumers. Whether it is mobile apps to get your groceries delivered at your doorstep or it may be the coming age of star wars where drones can bring you, your gifts! From mom and pop stores to state of the art “Amazon Go” –the journey has been quite long and dynamic. And just to give it a thought, it is just the beginning of how the technology is going to change the landscape of not only the business but also the society which is going to be benefitted from it. The coming years are going to be a phase of transformation for this industry, as can be seen by the predicted trends below.

Fig. 1. Retail Trends and Predictions 2017

As seen by the predicted trends, a majority of them will be led and impacted by the technology you adapt-it is not an option but the necessity to survive. Smart devices, improving connectivity technologies and e-commerce are all converging to a single realm of IoT, which is further instigated by cloud and mobile innovation, big data analytics and especially reducing cost of sensors.

It is not as if we have to start from scratch, the war has already begun by the retail giants to better understand the customers. Over the timeline, retailers have always stressed on the data to frame their next decision. It has been a long journey from Retailer Centric to Product Centric to Customer Centric to finally Delighted Customer Centric approach. As the industry has progressed through these stages, the role of technology has been enhanced with each of them, i.e. from the role of enabler to role of driver!

Now, let’s have a look into some of the IoT approaches which can be easily rolled out in the current scenario.

·        Considering the use of refrigeration units used in many stores, predictive equipment maintenance is used to detect any issues and to manage them

·        Logistics management is one of the pain points for this sector and the use of GPS to track the trucks has already been in picture from the last few years. Smart transport applications can really help to optimize the transport routes for a better delivery experience

·        RFID can be used for better inventory management and shelves organization. The future of the warehouse will be governed by automatically adjustable aisle and shelves in response to the real time demands

·        Personalization has now become an integral part of selling in retail. With IoT, sellers can better understand the context to respond to customers when they need any incentive or help to buy a product

·        With the introduction of Wi-Fi foot-traffic monitoring in the malls, the customer behavior can be understood to design the digital marketing strategy or promotional offers

Realizing the full Potential

Amazon is already increasing its sales by its revolutionary launch of dash buttons. According to a BI report, orders placed through dash buttons increased five folds over the year 2015 and in 2016 Amazon launched 60 more dash buttons. Rebecca Minkoff and many other stores are using smart mirrors on a two pronged strategy – provide a wow experience to the customers and gather data for better target marketing. Ralph Lauren’s tech shirts are giving the people both style and health consciousness. Target, Tesco and similar stores are using beacons for customer notifications and real time product marketing.

But instead of operating in bits and pieces, the full potential of IoT can only be realized when the whole ecosystem is built on the same line. The technology has to be implemented in all the three spheres of the industry-consumers, suppliers and partners. We are talking about how the data can be used to constantly touch base with the consumers, refilling their groceries demand automatically; self guided and monitored logistics which in turn will automatically trigger the supply from the warehouse and manufacturing in the factories. This network can help the managers to implement real-time pricing with the help of smart-tags on the products e.g. lower prices for promotional products or lower-turnover product and higher prices for high-demand products.

While it may seem like science fiction, the reality is folding quite sooner and retailers who are hesitant will be opening doors to their competitors to capture new market share and new mind share.