The next wave in retail technology is just about ready to break. Thanks to the decreasing price in RFID technology, and the willingness of retailers to invest more in connected marketing materials, the Internet of Things is poised to take over retail as the next future-focused trend.
In fact, experts estimate that IoT will see up to a 350% increase in IoT integration by 2021. What is this Internet of Things, or IoT you may ask? Simple: IoT is an interconnected network of user and retailer owned devices that can interface to share information and other important data in real time via Wi-Fi or similar technology.
What Does IoT Mean for Me?
Imagine that you soon walk into your favorite clothing retailer, step up to a wall display, and see yourself modeling particular types of clothing from the shop using information stored in your smartphone or mobile device. The digital display would also be able to tell you if your size is in stock, where in the store it is located, and its current price with any promotions being offered.
Seamless connectivity between your mobile, phone, and home internet shopping experiences that synchronize when you enter a brick and mortar location. All personalized to you. Imagine the possibilities of instantly personalized service: coffee shops, restaurants, department stores, big box stores. IoT is going to change everything we thought possible about retail within the next four years.
Changing the Face of Retail As We Know It
The top priority for IoT integration in retail is ensuring a seamless shopping experience across every channel of commerce. Customer’s should have exactly the same quality of experience and convenience whether they are visiting a physical location, an ecommerce site, browsing on the go in a mobile app, or speaking with customer care via telephone. IoT is uniquely poised to offer that particular level of services and expand it into the coming decades to unprecedented levels.
Electronic shelf labels that can be changed remotely via wireless, smartphone self-checkout, and Bluetooth hubs for collecting coupons and promotions are just a few of the many possibilities that are already being implemented by many retailers nationwide.
In fact, there are numerous retailers planning to integrate over 12.5 billion assets with some form of IoT by the year 2021. That if nothing else demonstrates that retail is already making serious plans to make that seamless connection between home, store, and devices a reality.
The Driving Technological Force Behind IoT
Two of the primary forces driving IoT are RFID and long-range, low-power Wi-Fi. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, has been a primary means of tracking and managing inventory in distribution centers, warehouses, and stores for a number of years now, but up until the past few years the technology has been somewhat expensive to install and maintain.
Now that the tech is more readily available and significantly more financially viable for more retailers, millions of new items will be instantaneously trackable on location, cutting down on shrink and improving loss prevention.
Additionally, with the expanded bandwidth and greater power efficiency of newer Wi-Fi technology, providing customers with a high-speed internet connection between their device and a retail location has never been easier or more economical.
Moreover, as more and more smartphones include built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID technology, the potential for a highly efficient IoT becomes more and more real every year. It is no small wonder that industry analysts are predicting such massive gains in IoT over the second half of the decade.
Boosting Supply Chain Infrastructure
One of the biggest gains for retail with IoT will be in the massive improvements in supply chain efficiency Keeping popular items stocked, maintaining quality and package integrity between distribution locations, and increasing visibility for when products depart and arrive in store are all simplified thanks to RFID tracking.
A high quality RFID system integrated with a well-designed IoT network allows retailers and customer to know where and when they can anticipate stock or purchased items to arrive with up-to-the-minute accuracy.
RFID tracking also allows various environmental factors that affect an item in transit to be tracked as well. For example, if a device is exposed to high heat during transit, the onboard RFID tracker can make a note of the increased temperature, location, and the time and date of the exposure.
This allows retailers and package handlers to accurately attribute responsibility for the damage to a product when a product has to be written off as a loss due to damage.
Clearly, IoT is going to bring a great deal of positive change to retail from the front end to the back of the house. Retailers will be able to increase their agility in targeted marketing to help customers find the products they need, and customer will be able to shop as easily at home as they would in a brick-and-mortar store location.
IoT is not merely a marketing fad or passing fancy: it is the tidal wave that will change how retail does business. It’s time to see if your retail business is ready to ride that wave into the future, or be swept aside by more agile competitors. Make sure you know where you stand.