IoT Driving Retail Sales
From brick-and-mortar to click-and-mortar
Just when fears that physical retailers would be completely displaced by e-commerce giants started materializing, we began seeing a shift in how people shop. Rather than avoiding them, shoppers now research products and prices online first and then visit the retailer of their choice to confirm product quality, fit, and availability prior to making purchase decisions.
When offering competitive prices, desirable products, and an ambient shopping experience is no longer enough to win shoppers over, the integration of technology in physical stores, as well as a strong online and social media presence is becoming a differentiator for retailers facing fierce competition for foot traffic, revenues and market share.
According to a 2017 Retail Vision Study conducted by Zebra, technology is already disrupting the retail sector significantly. Most retailers today are planning investments in automation (57%), the Internet of Things (70%), and machine learning/cognitive computing (68%) to improve the customer experience. Let’s look at the adoption of these technologies in more detail and what it means in terms of investment and payoff.
Retailers Cite the Technology Trends Shaping the Future: Zebra 2017 Retail Vision Study
IoT in retail
Smart / IoT devices are already being used in retail settings with success. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-implement technology, which can offer consumers much more than traditionally designed spaces have been able to. Whether it’s setting up contactless POS systems, using smart screens for communication or marketing purposes, or providing remote assistance in-store, there are limitless options for retailers who wish to enhance their image, their customer experience, and ultimately – their sales. From smart touchscreens and product finders to product comparison shelves and electronic price tags, new technology can effectively streamline retail operations, reduce costs and drive revenues. The choice of software and hardware depends on the individual retailer’s goals but it’s safe to say that retail tech can make almost any store function more efficient and cost-effective.
Promising retail tech
Self-checkout vs. cashiers: Employing staff is costly, while waiting in line to pay for purchases is inefficient and time-consuming. While many retailers and grocery stores have been offering self-checkout lanes for at least a decade, innovations like in-store cameras and cashless payments make it possible to further cut down the time needed to stock up on essentials. Amazon Go is a great example of a physical store driven entirely by technology, where cameras have replaced human cashiers and even check-out points.
Smart shelves vs. inaccurate prices and inventory: Sensor-enabled shelves make it easy to efficiently keep track of product inventory and sales by fully automating the process. Electronic shelf labels enable store owners and managers to dynamically update prices directly in their EPR system without ever physically touching the inventory.
Sensor-y experiences vs. barebone shopping: Long gone are the days of clipping coupons, downloading vouchers and keeping track of discount codes when shopping in-store. Modern retailers can now take advantage of sensors, beacons, AI, and augmented reality to connect with shoppers directly through their smartphones. This allows retailers to offer unprecedented experiences and unique offers tailored to their shoppers’ style preferences, tastes, and buying habits. With the help of beacons, retailers can seduce visitors with special bargains, VIP packages, event invitations, discounts, and other personalized messaging to make them feel special. In a world where customization can be a true differentiating factor, it is data – not products – that make a brand truly stand out.
Digitizing your retail spaceWhether you decide to start small or go big by launching a complete digital overhaul of your retail space, expect to revolutionize not only your customer expectations and experience, but also your entire business model. Efficiency, fast service and customer satisfaction translate to higher profits in the long run. Although the initial investment in digitization shouldn’t be underestimated, once fully functional, modern retail and POS tech can run at a fraction of traditional operating costs.