Retail is the Most ‘Intelligent’ Enterprise Sector, But What Does That Really Mean?
Retailers are accelerating efforts to become more “intelligent” as they try to stay ahead of competitors and customer demand, as revealed in Zebra’s 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index.
In fact, retail gained the most momentum of all sectors over the last 12 months, graduating from the bottom of the 2018 vertical Index rankings to nearly the top of the 2019 list — second only to healthcare. Even more, over 70 percent of retail respondents expect to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) solutions companywide in the coming months.
The sudden spike in IoT adoption shouldn't come as a surprise. In order to become an “intelligent enterprise,” organizations must give physical assets a digital voice. This is what allows them to run operations more efficiently and make better decisions with improved real-time visibility. In retail, this helps to elevate the customer experience, build a smarter operation, and optimize inventory — all of which is required to run a modern day omnichannel business.
Why Intelligence Scores Matter More Than Ever
Retailers are now highly focused on “returns,” but not just in the classic sense of product returns. They want to know how they keep customers returning to their stores amidst fierce competition, which now includes their own online stores. They also want to understand how best to maximize their return on investment for any new resources dedicated to accomplishing such goals. Sometimes, that entails augmenting or expanding the workforce. In other cases, it requires process re-engineering or workflow automation. But it always involves technology in some capacity.
Given that barcode-based systems and mobile devices — two of the key technology platforms used to derive and deliver IoT-powered intelligence — have already been deployed in most retail environments today, it’s no surprise that retailers see potential, and a potentially strong return, with IoT-based solutions.
Almost immediately, handheld mobile computers, smartphones, tablets and scanners could be configured to work with more advanced IoT-based architectures to deliver expanded intelligence to front-line store associates to improve the point of sale (POS), restocking, inventory counts and inventory lookup, among many other actions that help to improve the speed and quality of customer service and secure sales. These same devices can be utilized to simultaneously improve back-of-house logistics, including shipping; receiving; inventory management; buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) fulfillment, and more.
They could also be combined with other technologies such as computer vision, prescriptive analytics engines, sensors, RFID locationing systems, and near-field communications (NFC) technologies to offer near-perfect clarity into retailers’ operations and produce the small, actionable data that makes a big impact on the bottom line.
The Real ROI of ‘Intelligence’ is Measured by Action
While the ability to fully sense and analyze what customers and associates are doing within a store or warehouse can be invaluable, the real power of IoT — the real return — comes when those learnings are turned into measurable action.
Today, only 55 percent of retailers share information from their IoT solutions with employees in real time or near-real time. Only 38 percent share it with all of their employees. That’s a missed opportunity.
Retailers that utilize IoT-powered technologies to take direct action on gathered intelligence are the ones that will most successfully meet or exceed customer expectations as competitive pressures intensify.
The good news is that 69 percent of retailers are prioritizing “analytics” in their IoT data management plans, per feedback gathered during 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index inquiries. Those that invest in prescriptive analytics solutions, in particular, gain a “superpower”: the ability to know exactly what needs be done to keep shelves stocked, combat inventory losses, and incentivize consumers to fill their carts. They know how to take advantage of every opportunity that could benefit their bottom line, which, in my opinion, is the ultimate payoff of becoming an “intelligent enterprise.”
For more information, check out Zebra’s 2019 Intelligent Enterprise Index.
Anees Haidri is director of global retail market strategy at Zebra Technologies, an enterprise technology and services company empowering those on the front line in retail, healthcare, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, and other industries to achieve a performance edge.
Anees Haidri is Director of Global Retail Market Strategy at Zebra Technologies, an enterprise technology and services company empowering those on the front line in retail, health care, transportation and logistics, manufacturing and other industries to achieve a performance edge.