In today’s society, it is pretty common knowledge (and a given) that e-commerce is booming more than it ever has and with consumers increasing using online stores to not only search for the best deal but to make a transaction, there has been a longstanding risk that the traditional store will lose relevance. To avoid this, businesses need to find strategies that will integrate the online experience into the physical retail space in a way that is engaging, seamless and informative. Doing so will help get shoppers back in the stores. And the best way to make this happen is by employing the IoT.
When IoT technology is used in the correct manner, retailers can offer a competitive differentiation. According to HPE Aruba research, early adopters of IoT in the Netherlands are already seeing the benefits: improved business efficiency (75 percent); customer experience (63 percent); innovation (70 percent) and cost savings (56 percent).
But how exactly are they achieving this? The face is that IoT can be deployed in a huge number of ways, from in-store mobile apps to sensor-based, checkout-free shopping.
First of all, businesses need to get to know their customers. IoT creates the possibility for data from any electronic device to be anonymously captured and analyzed so that retailers can gain a better understanding of customer preferences. If a customer is using a retailer’s website or moving around the store, anonymized versions of this data can be transmitted through the network and analyzed. The more devices that can capture data (from apps, touch screen displays, product barcodes), the more information can be compiled. Once the data has been analyzed, the information helps to build customer profiles and lets businesses better understand and anticipate their customers’ behaviors.
The contextual data can be used to improve the location of in-store product displays; boost the effectiveness of promotions, communications in high-traffic areas and improve point-of-purchase influence. Real-time analytics let retailers align staffing levels, so money is not wasted staffing an empty store and full stores aren’t understaffed at peak times.
Next, businesses will need to focus on getting customers back into the stores. One of the best ways to convince them to physically enter stores is to take advantage of Wi-Fi/data/location functions that we all constantly have running on our phones. This way, businesses can send potential customers personalized digital promotions or use digital signage in shop displays to communicate the latest offering, products and services.
IoT technology keeps the in-store experience interesting, immersive and allows retailers to constantly innovate their in-store offering. Examples of technology integration in the stores is through mobile points of sale, smart mirrors and apps that can share purchase history and wish list items with staff in the store.
And of course, businesses will need to continue competing with online retailers. Exclusive offers and experiences such as partnerships or limited edition products will help bricks and mortar stores compete with each other, and with what’s available online.
Once consumers have set foot in the store retailers can use connected devices to their advantage, arming employees with tablets so they can instantly see what’s in stock or work out how they are tracking against their monthly sales targets. Installing touch-screen displays where customers can look up the location of an item or preview next season’s stocks or upcoming events may increase sales. Additionally, encouraging employees to take payment through connected devices, retail payment apps, can save time and increase productivity.
Embracing IoT technology can improve the in-store experience instantly and can become more convenient and interesting for customers and employees alike. By 2019, 79 percent of retail organizations will have adopted IoT technology and 77 percent believe it will transform the industry. Bricks and mortar stores who adopt IoT now, will reap the rewards – and quickly.