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The role of IoT in retail and disruptive innovation in the sector

Rajesh Ramesh | July 5, 2016
How brick and mortar retailers can ride the IoT wave to enhance customer and employee experience.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

The role of IoT in retail and disruptive innovation in the sector

Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolution which we are all witnessing. Business interaction with the physical world is changing. This transformation is happening at a rapid pace and industry analysts estimate that there will be close to 40-50 billion devices in the next 5 years that will be part of the IoT ecosystem.

The retail industry is not far behind in adopting IoT. We see many examples in e-commerce that are making purchase much easier by allowing consumers to buy products from the comfort of their homes. However the emphasis of this article is on how IoT is and has been playing a role in the traditional 'Brick and mortar' retailing.

Many discussions and debates around "digital vs. brick and mortar" have convinced everyone that while digital is another medium providing a convenient shopping experience, the brick and mortar piece is going to stay. Studies have shown that consumers still prefer spending majority of their time shopping in stores than online.

Especially retailers who are big in brick and mortar should not lose focus from it and move to adopting disruptions confined to online. It is imperative for them to focus on how they can bring in a better customer shopping experience in stores and improve interactions between store employees in a way that enhances operational efficiency.

Even before IoT became a buzz word, retailers had made inroads in this direction. Three popular examples which come to mind which reflect an early adoption of I0T include Electronic Shelf Edge Labels (ESEL) for quick display of price information. The technology also helps in the reduction of label printing and the labor required to paste labels.

Secondly, Thermal Cameras have been used to help count queue data in checkouts. Based on this data, a decision is made on the necessity of another checkout in order to reduce customer waiting time.

Third, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been useful in maintaining inventory accuracy. RFID implementation stemmed from the desire to give our customers great availability and better service while making it simplified for our store colleagues.

RFID tags today are more economical and can help in the management of product inventory in a retail outlet more efficiently.

The above examples may not qualify as major disruptions in IoT, but certainly the value they bring to our customers and colleagues is immense.  The nature of IoT is evolving on a daily basis and there are many more opportunities like this where IoT can play a significant role.


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