Smart Retail: 8 Innovative Examples of IoT in Retail
The retail landscape has experienced a seismic shift with the evolution of IoT. With 70% of retailers confident that IoT will significantly impact how they do business in the future, it’s no surprise that the IoT in retail market size is expected to reach USD 182.04 billion by 2028.
Consumer habits, high pressure on delivery services, buyers' mistrust in online purchases or lack of tech fluency are all factors that hold sellers back in an environment they could otherwise be thriving in. From revenue growth, cost reductions and business process optimizations, smart retail promises to overcome these challenges to deliver retailers and their customers with unprecedented benefits.
Here are 8 innovative use cases of IoT in retail.
1. Facility Management
One of the biggest day-to-day responsibilities for retailers involves keeping the store area clean, comfortable, safe, and attractive. There are numerous IoT technologies that can help streamline these tasks as well as reduce associated costs.
For example, people counting data combined with presence detection data can pinpoint areas that are frequently used and those that are not like instore washrooms and change rooms to better manage disinfection and cleaning schedules. With the help of wireless IoT sensors, facility managers can also proactively monitor when consumable supplies are running low at entrances and throughout the store for effective inventory management and timely replenishment.
Paramount in customer comfort as well as operational expenses and sustainability, energy management can now be easily optimized with the help of environmental sensors that monitor temperature, lighting, ventilation and refrigeration. This critical environmental data can identify the key energy consumption drivers and provide a 360° view of energy consumption patterns, abnormal energy consumptions by faulty devices if any, and under-used or over-used infrastructure and wasted resources.
2. Traffic Control
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are required to enforce new restrictions on the number of visitors in their space to ensure compliance with government social distancing regulations. People counting systems can help track the number of people entering or exiting any given space in real-time and alert facility managers when their capacity threshold has been met.
3. Buyer Behavior Tracking
Occupancy sensors can provide essential data about store traffic patterns and dwell times in specific product areas. This data can help retailers better plan in-store merchandising and guided selling through more effective display setups, aisle layouts and space allotment. This data can also be used to monitor checkout line wait times to provide better customer service with more staffing or additional self-checkouts.
4. Supply Chain & Logistics
IoT provides unprecedented inventory visibility across shelves, transit and warehouses to help retailers enhance efficiencies, reduce costs and ensure superior customer experience. Connected sensors can track items from “floor to store.” There are a variety of IoT sensors that can provide a coherent stream of real-time data on the exact location of an item, how long it took to move between different phases of the SCM lifecycle and even how fast a specific delivery truck is moving. This helps identify bottle necks, allow for contingency planning and determine alternative routes to speed up delivery. It also helps suppliers, manufacturers and distribution centers better prepare to receive goods, which reduces handling times, ensures the efficient processing of material and increases the precision of delivery forecasts for vendors and customers.
5. Cold Chain Monitoring
Perishable food spoilage and deterioration in the retail grocery industry results in a significant loss of profitability, with grocers on average losing $70 million annually to spoilage alone. Environmental sensors can track ambient conditions like temperature, humidity, air quality, light intensity and other environmental factors inside a storage facility, cargo container, delivery vehicle or in-store to protect perishable goods, ensure optimal freshness and reduce waste.
6. Asset Tracking
Beyond the supply chain, wireless IoT sensors can be used to track on-site assets like shopping carts and baskets. From costly theft to time-consuming retrieval, shopping carts can be an expensive headache for retailers. In fact, shopping carts cost stores anywhere from $75 to $250 each which makes ensuring they stay put in and in good shape critical. IoT sensors can help pinpoint the location of wandering carts as well as activate automatic locking systems on the wheels when a cart has gone too far. This not only prevents theft, but also ensures there are always enough carts for customers entering the store.
7. Personalized Shopping
IoT devices are also being used to personalize shopping experiences. For example, Bluetooth Beacons can send alerts in real-time to a smartphone based on a customer’s location proximity. Such alerts can prompt a potential passerby to go into a store and take advantage of the offer and let in-store customers know of personalized discounts, special events, or other reminders. This location data can also be used to prompt customized messages on nearby digital displays or to dispatch sales associates to areas where customers are lingering, improving the overall customer experience.
8. Smart Shelves
Another innovative examples of IoT in retail are smart shelves. Retailers spend a lot of time and energy focused on keeping track of items to ensure they’re never out-of-stock, and ensuring items aren’t misplaced on various shelves. Smart Shelves automate both of these tasks, while simultaneously detecting potential theft. Smart shelves fitted with weight sensors and RFID tags can scan products on both display and stock shelves to inform employees when items are running low or when items are incorrectly placed on a shelf. This not only saves time, but also eliminates manual errors that cause overstocking and shortages.
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