Leveraging IoT to Create an Enhanced In-Store Experience
The Internet of Things (IoT) is continuing to proliferate in industry sectors. From a concept that began on smartphones, tablets and laptops, IoT is now making headway in almost every object that surrounds us, such as streetlights, cars and lifts. By 2050, it’s predicted that there will be 24 billion interconnected devices on a global scale. As technology continues to develop, the retail space will prove to be no different in harnessing IoT devices in order to provide a seamless experience in-store. However, with only 8.3 percent of the world’s active devices currently used in retail, where do innovations need to be made in order for stores to truly benefit?
It’s already the case that the retail landscape is beginning to transform. This is particularly evident in the initial rollout of Amazon Fresh till-less stores, which allow customers to pick up items and walk out after scanning their smartphone app upon entering. Cameras and depth sensors, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), track each customer as they move around the store, logging each item chosen for payment to be taken from their account later on.
As retail innovations such as these become the norm, customer expectations of a seamless omnichannel experience will grow. This is reflected by feedback from VoCoVo’s recent survey that found 52 percent of consumers plan to use a mixture of online and in-store shopping to purchase fashion items, and is likely to extend across various sectors of retail moving forward.
Embracing IoT in-store allows retailers to provide the technology-based experience that customers have become so accustomed to during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as embracing online and hybrid services like buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). There’s certainly a misconception of how far IoT can go in terms of in-store connectivity, with the often-used example of smart fridges allowing workers to know when stocks of milk are running low, but the reality is that the possibilities go much further.
With communication between store associates pivotal to providing a memorable in-store experience, integration between colleague headsets and call points can help streamline customer queries about products or collections, while smart devices such as shelving can send notifications to headsets when action is required. Integrations with self-checkouts enable purchase authorizations to be made remotely via a simple voice command, speeding up the process and bringing customer satisfaction.
IoT devices can also track user preferences and adapt to customer behavior, ultimately refining over time to ensure that customers receive an optimum experience. For a store network, leveraging IoT in each of its premises ultimately creates opportunities for a larger ecosystem, enabling safer, efficient and coordinated shops. Headquarters then have greater visibility of which stores are performing well and which may need attention in terms of customer experience refinements.
Why IoT Can Keep Customers Coming Back
Pandemic-related restrictions and the changing trend for customers to utilize technology to shop online during the pandemic has no doubt left retailers concerned about the future of their brick-and-mortar stores, but conversely, technology also holds the key to bringing them back to the sales floor via the right IoT integrations. The lines between physical and online shopping are now increasingly blurred. For example, VoCoVo research shows that 49 percent of shoppers plan to take an omnichannel approach to purchasing future electronics.
Replicating the customer experience gained from other channels is now key for retailers to ensure that the in-store experience matches heightened expectations, and IoT devices provide that opportunity. What decision makers have to remember however is that IoT presents multiple use cases in the store environment, from efficiency to security, while helping to bring stores together. At the core of this is the sharing of data between devices, powering consumer insight and helping to shape industry strategy in the coming years.
Martyn Jones is the chief commercial officer at VoCoVo, a global retail communications solution provider.
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