Using the IoT to Prepare for a Very Different Kind of Holiday Shopping Season
With the pandemic raging on, one thing is for certain: the 2020 holiday shopping season is going to look very different from years past. With the CDC categorizing shopping in crowded stores as a high-risk activity, many retailers are nudging consumers to get a head start on holiday shopping or order online to mitigate Black Friday crowds and ensure customer safety.
To maintain safe experiences for consumers who want to shop in stores, retailers need to set and execute clear parameters, such as how many people are allowed in at once. Not only that, but with more consumers apt to turn to e-commerce this year, retailers must also offer exceptional online and delivery experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) can help retailers prepare on both fronts to guarantee a safe and successful holiday shopping season. Here’s how:
Smart Stock Monitoring
As part of holiday shopping, retailers usually keep warehouses stocked with goods to make sure they don’t run out of the most in-demand gifts.
By deploying IoT-enabled sensors that detect weight on shelves in both stores and warehouses, retailers can determine which items are most popular with consumers. Keeping track of what items are flying off the shelves (or not) helps signal when items need to be restocked and prevents overstocking on the wrong products. This will be especially important as warehouses manage shipping goods not just to stores, but to individuals as online ordering ramps up this year.
Guaranteeing Timely Deliveries
With consumers increasingly wary of crowds and Black Friday deals being spread throughout the fall, holiday online shopping is projected to increase drastically this year. In fact, 66 percent of consumers anticipate they will increase their online holiday shopping in 2020, according to a survey conducted by Radial. With online shopping the new norm, the timely delivery of orders will be critical to customer satisfaction, especially absent traditional customer engagement techniques, like friendly salespeople.
By attaching IoT-enabled devices to shipments and containers, retailers can gain insight into shipment whereabouts. Real-time updates allow retailers to keep customers updated on delivery approximations as they await their packages. This is critical in achieving great customer experiences in the online world.
Aside from creating excellent customer experiences, data collected by IoT devices can also drive supply chain efficiencies by empowering retailers to optimize shipment routes for faster delivery. The IoT can be pivotal in identifying warehouse delays and optimizing operations for quicker, better service and deliveries. Likewise, with the IoT, retailers can quickly identify issues or delays, allowing them to remedy problems before they escalate into a customer service disaster.
Manage Store Capacity
While retailers need to focus on stock management and timely deliveries for a largely virtual holiday shopping season, they must also brace for changed in-store shopping experiences as some consumers may still opt to do their holiday gift purchasing in person.
With new safety guidelines to follow, the IoT can help retailers keep their customers safe and enforce social distancing rules. For example, by placing IoT sensors at entrance and exit points of stores monitoring foot traffic or on grocery carts, retailers can get accurate and up-to-date information on the number of shoppers in stores. This information enables them to efficiently manage capacity, which not only ensures shopper safety, but also removes the need for store “bouncers” at entrance and exit points, keeping employees safe as well.
Retailers can also offer a unique and safe shopping experience by taking advantage of IoT to ensure social distancing and contact monitoring (and tracing if required). Before shoppers enter the store, retailers can provide them with an IoT-enabled wearable such as a wristband (similar to concerts), key fob or badge that's paired with the shopper’s smartphone through either the store’s app or a third-party contact tracing app. The wearable can detect if shoppers get too close (less than six feet) to another shopper and notify them through their phone, and also record the incident.
Holiday shopping is going to look very different this year, but technology like the IoT can make it easier for retailers to get ahead of the rush. With IoT devices at the ready, retailers can prepare for a safe and successful holiday season.
Hussain Suleman is the vice president of sales at Sigfox USA, the world’s leading service provider for Internet of Things (IoT).
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Hussain Suleman is the Vice President of Sales at Sigfox USA, the world’s leading service provider for Internet of Things (IoT). Hussain has over 15 years of experience in the technology sector, with expertise in IoT, digital transformation and enterprise mobility, with a passion towards driving disruptive technologies into new markets.