robot navigating customers while shopping

Retail Revolution – The Future of IoT for Shoppers

Innovations like the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and robotics are transforming our world in endlessly inventive ways.

But sci-fi futurists have been dreaming about the amazing ways technology might make our lives smoother and easier for generations.

For instance, cult TV cartoon The Jetsons (first aired in 1962) predicted inventions like cell phones, video meetings, robot vacuum cleaners, smart watches and the internet.

But one innovation its whip-smart writers didn’t predict is the Internet of Things (IoT).

According to McKinsey’s Global Institute, the IoT will have an economic impact of between $4 trillion and $11 trillion by 2025. 

One sector experiencing a massive impact from this tech is retail – IoT features and functions are endlessly evolving to meet the shifting demands of the next generations of shoppers. 

This is a highly competitive, omnichannel environment where the boundaries between physical and digital shopping experiences are more amorphous than ever.

So IoT brands are racing to harness intelligence insights that make customer experiences more human, personalized, and profitable. 

If you want to find out more about the ways leading-edge IoT for shoppers might affect your business, you’ve found just the right blog. 

Let’s take a look at a few ways IoT is revolutionizing retail. 

 

Beaconomics

Beacons are those clever little Bluetooth devices which send customers in close proximity to your store app alerts on discounts, event invites and product recommendations.

They’ve been around since Apple introduced them in 2013 but lots of retailers still find them effective. If you’re interested in Beaconomics, here are a few facts that might surprise you:

  • Beacons are still used effectively by early adopters like Macy’s and their power is also harnessed by brands like Timberland, Lord & Taylor and Urban Outfitters.

  • According to Research Dive, the global beacon tech market valued at $504.7 million in 2018 will grow by 75.4% by 2026, when its worth will be $45,213.7 million.

  • Mobile ordering app OrderPay is using beacon technology to help major UK restaurant chains meet their social distancing requirements, reduce contact between staff and customers and enable efficient and smooth table service.

  • Opportunities to apply beacon apps to personalize retail experiences for shoppers in the post-pandemic era are endless.  

For instance, the tech can be applied to helping people in socially-distanced events crowds find their seats and safely order food and drink, or to enhance immersive experiential shopping that’s completely contactless and highly personalized. 

 

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Voice of the people

In 2021, we’re shouting shopping requests at AI smart speakers like Alexa and Siri more than ever and the convenience and speed of voice commerce means it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

Here are a few facts and figures about this surging tech sector and the reasons why it’s becoming the favored shopping method for so many consumers:

  • According to Adobe Digital Insights, 38% of consumers find smart speaker adverts more compelling and less intrusive than their equivalents on TV, radio and social media. Furthermore, 75% of consumers surveyed confirmed daily smart speakers use. 
  • 85% of Amazon customers choose the recommended Amazon product when voice searching, which underlines how crucial it is for businesses to optimize their voice strategy in order to maximize sales on the platform. 

  • If you’re involved in designing voice commerce IoT devices, one area which presents an opportunity for improvement is inclusivity.
    For example, a study by The Washington Post found that the difference between what people said and what the smart speaker understood was 30% greater for non-native speakers.
    Meanwhile, another linguistics study by University of Washington linguists revealed that speech recognition is 13% less accurate for women than men.  

 

Shelf-absorbed

The humble store shelf hasn’t been left untouched by IoT tech and it’s being used and developed in lots of interesting ways.

The store shelves of tomorrow are more than meets the eye. 

Here’s how they’re minimizing wastage and improving efficiency in supply chains, as well as enhancing shopper experiences in physical stores: 

  • Store employees are using Smart Shelves to automate onerous stock keeping tasks and ensure that items aren’t placed on the wrong shelves when colleagues or customers attempt to pick and purchase them.
    These clever shelves are fitted with RFID (radio frequency identification) and weight sensors which notify staff when stocks are depleting. Since the tags are connected to readers, they also detect in-store theft without the expense of CCTV cameras and human security staff. 

  • To facilitate a shopping experience that goes a few steps further, 4 Brands Reply has developed an intelligent and connected shelf.
    This IoT system not only prevents stock shortages in a similar way to the Smart Shelf, but also enables upselling and cross-selling recommendations for in-store buyers.
    This works without the need to rely on cell phones, because when items are removed from shelves, display screens show additional information including discount offers on complementary products.
    This type of intelligent shelving can be applied in many different retail sectors.
    For instance, food shoppers can be served up recipe suggestions, or book readers can be offered the next title in a series for a bargain price – or a relevant ‘you might like’ alternative from another author in the same genre. 

 

Fingertip fashion

We’ve got used to shop floor supervisors wearing headphones over the years, but in 2021, sophisticated apps and discreet wearables are empowering frontline retail staff to provide ever higher levels of customer service.

A prime example of this tech in action comes from clothing giant H&M, who have worked together with Microsoft on an IoT system which helps staff create the type of tailored, carefully-curated experiences modern shoppers love. It includes:

  • A staff app packed with information on merchandising and visual creation information which is connected to head office 24/7.

  • An uber-smart wearable bracelet which frontline staff on the shop floor use to communicate and enhance customer service silently and efficiently. The wearables are also connected to buttons in areas like changing rooms so that staff can help customers swiftly in any area of the store. 
  • An ‘endless aisle’ solution whereby staff can show customers a selection of complementary products available online in instances when they’re not available in store, allowing them to order easily in store rather than taking their purchase elsewhere. 

 

Key takeaways

As you can see, IoT is developing in many diverse ways in order to meet the rapidly changing demands of shoppers.

This unlocks opportunities for both ambitious retailers keen to invest and IoT product leaders looking for fresh new angles which will make online and physical shopping experiences smooth, stress-free and fun. 

Here are a few key takeaways on IoT and the future of shopping:

 

  • Beacon technology could be a wise investment for cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs that want to welcome customers safely back into their establishments and differentiate themselves with excellent levels of safety and customer service. 

 

  • Voice commerce is an innovation that’s here to stay, but there are challenges to make it more accessible and accurate for women and customers with regional accents. Smart speaker product leaders who put inclusivity at the heart of design and functionality could have a winning formula. 

 

  • IoT wearables, apps and platforms can empower fashion retail staff to deliver efficient, personalized, and professional experiential retail which satisfies customers and boosts the bottom line. 

 

It’s refreshing that so much emerging IoT tech is making shopping experiences more human, relatable, and engaging.

But don’t forget that as IoT use and connectivity continues to gather pace, product leaders should never lose sight of the importance of cybersecurity. 

Talk to us today about IoT device protection for your connected devices.

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