The rise in eCommerce has given the retail industry a shift unlike any other time in its history. While big box stores hustle for position in a rapidly changing omnichannel landscape, technology continues to rapidly drive new retail innovations.
Chief among them will be the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. This will connect consumers to data and experiences through the everyday object that they interact with. IoT retail tech will change how brands collect data from their customers, how customers buy products, and the experiences that they have in-store.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how IoT devices are already changing the retail industry—and how it will continue to reshape it in the next decade:
A Changing Checkout Experience
The first and most obvious point of implementation for IoT technology will be most visible in the checkout experience. Already, we see rapid advances in the way that customers buy products in a store.
In late 2016, Amazon debuted Amazon Go, a checkout system that automatically detects what users have added to their carts, and charges their card as they walk out the door. While the system was originally announced for their own retail stores, it’s easy to see how the tech could be licensed and broadly implemented in others. Over time, this could set a new standard: changing customers’ expectations.
Just how do physical retailers compete with the retail giant? The question revolves around the “Amazon effect.” Brick and mortar institutions are increasingly forced to adapt to customers’ shifting expectations, offering new reasons for buyers to visit physical stores.
The initial jump may not be so drastic. The underlying technology of detecting what products shoppers add to their cart could be implemented in other ways. For instance, a cashier could still be responsible for processing the transaction—providing a point of interaction with the customer while speeding up the checkout process.
Improved Logistics Will Improve Order Fulfillment
Much of the Internet of Things revolution will take place behind the scenes, out of the public’s view. IoT technology will provide much greater visibility across the fulfillment process. This will allow companies to better meet the demands of an economy that is driven by omnichannel interactions. Today, retailers can accurately track each piece of inventory as it moves through the system to identify inefficiencies. The end result will be faster, more accurate fulfillment.
Automation for Durable Goods
There are many goods in the home that require continuous replenishment. Homes need to constantly replenish dishwasher detergent, fabric softeners, soaps, tin foil, and a host of other household goods. IoT technology helps companies simplify item replenishment, providing customers a better experience in repetitive shopping tasks.
One trend we have seen that capitalizes on this is the rise of subscription services. These focus on providing a monthly allotment of specific goods, reducing the customer’s need to monitor products and buy them when they run low. Amazon’s Dash buttons provide an excellent example. Dash buttons allow consumers to order an item with the press of a button. They have even been directly integrated into Whirlpool and GE appliances.
Improved In-Store Experiences
In the future, we may see innovations that let customers see how an outfit would look before trying it on
A lot of IoT innovation has focused on improving the in-store experience for consumers. The act of shopping isn’t just simply about buying necessary goods, but an overall experience for the shoppers themselves. A common implementation that we have already seen make its way into big box chains is radio frequency ID (RFID) tags for products.
RFID tags can be used to tell whether a product is available in other sizes or colors, or even help employees to locate the items.
In the future, we may see innovations like smart mirrors that allow consumers to see how an outfit would look before trying it on, or kiosks that can help consumers make better buying decisions. A better in-store experience will keep consumers coming back, and much of the front-facing innovation in IoT has focused on these interactions.
More Time for Important Tasks
Perhaps the biggest benefit of IoT tech for retailers is that it could potentially alleviate a lot of the mundane and tedious tasks. The future with IoT could look much different for retail employees. Inventory may become a thing of the past, with the tasks of restocking and sorting inventory being completely eliminated or drastically reduced.
IoT is the Next Frontier
Retailers are already scrambling to prepare for a future where IoT technology becomes interwoven into the way that we shop and interact with big box brands on a day-to-day basis. While physical retail locations are in overdrive to meet omnichannel demands, a new IoT frontier awaits them on the other side.
IoT tech could provide sustainable solutions to problems that have traditionally been a part of the retail experience. With tedious tasks out of the way, retailers could focus on improving the experience of shoppers.