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  • 20 Apr

The Internet of Things Part II: Next steps, and what it means for the retail industry

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This is the second part of an idea that originated in last week’s blog, “The Internet of Things: be careful what you wish for”, exploring the impact that IoT could have on our everyday lives, and how retailers can tap into this technological phenomenon.

Internet of Things

IoT might be pervasive earlier than we first thought. And if Gartner’s research is correct, it’ll be a big revolution: they have predicted that 26 billion IoT devices will be in use worldwide by 2020.

Last week, we touched on Amazon Dash’s automated “replenishment” button, which operates via an Amazon smartphone app and the home wi-fi network. Customers select stock products they want to reorder, such as washing powder, milk, or toilet roll, and when stocks get low in the home, users can press a replenishment button that automatically places an order of the item, which will then be delivered the next day.

Of course, in the physical retail world this puts pressure on the efficiency of the supply chain. The need for clear stock visibility, real time ordering, and a highly mobilised delivery network is essential. With the right end to end omnichannel supply chain solution, this is the opportunity for retailers to provide an even better service to their customers.

Personalisation is paramount. The sheer amount of personal data that our super-connected devices generate means that it will become easier to target consumers based on requirements. IoT is so intelligent, that it has the potential to even “think” the way a consumer does.

For example, when a consumer is out of milk, their IoT smart fridge will detect this and send out the data via the home wi-fi to their connected smartphone. What’s next will be notifications shared with supermarkets via beacons, so that when said consumer walks past, the internet in their pocket – smartphone – will connect with it, and automatically display a price comparison advert for milk within their current shopping radius. For the time-poor but cost conscious consumer, this automated functionality is well targeted.

The same goes for retail. If a consumer has been browsing online, and abandons their shopping cart, their shopping profile data will be stored and shared with the retailer’s in-store beacons. Imagine the next time the consumer walks past the store, and their smartphone receives a simple email notification via beacon technology, of the products they were previously interested in, and the option to purchase and select delivery. Once the “desire to acquire” an item has been sparked, that desire now needs to be serviced immediately. Perhaps smart wardrobes will soon exist: if a consumer needs to order stock items, such as jeans, or a white tshirt, they can speak out to their wardrobe to do so, and have it delivered in-store to try on, or to their home later that day.

Reducing the waiting time between the initial desire and the purchase is essential, especially given the increasingly short attention span of today’s consumer. When there are fewer clicks between the desire to acquire and hitting the buy button, that’s when the shopping experience will be truly connected. However, as explored last week, completely automating this process means that convenience comes at the price of a loss of the “human” experience.

The near future will become saturated in shoppable moments, and retailers must be ready to respond. If you’re not omnichannel, you’re no channel: consumers will be expecting more from retailers as IoT becomes more refined.

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