August 11, 2015

The Internet of Things in Retail

BY :     August 11, 2015

IoT in RetailThe Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail has been redefining the buying and selling experience for decades.  Remember when bar code scanners first arrived in our local stores speeding the checkout process? Or the first time we entered a credit card number into our browser to make an online purchase? Or the moment we became both customer and clerk as we checked ourselves out at a register? The Internet of Things has actually changed the course of the retail business. No wonder then that investment in the Internet of Things in the worldwide retail industry is expected to hit $37.6 billion and is expected to grow 20-35% per year over the next several years.

Today retail is synonymous with handheld devices that empower the customer and the retail associate. These devices and digital signs on shelves and walls provide a truly mobile experience and allow dynamic pricing, personalized coupons, and purchases anywhere in the store. Both buyers and sellers have easier access to up-to-the minute product, pricing, inventory and competitive information. And that’s a huge transformation in the retail value chain. Sogeti has helped

several retailers roll out tablets and concierge apps to enable store associates access virtual product catalogs and customer profiles remotely and create a delightful in-store experience for the customer.

Up, close and personal with the customer – thanks to the Internet of Things!

Today retailers use technologies like Radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, geofenced stores, headcount cameras and gesture recognizing displays that track customer movement within the store and help create richer and more personalized shopping experiences. This “fog” of devices and the Internet of connected things in the store is made omniscient by Cloud connectivity via wifi, bluetooth, 4G LTE and other communication protocols that provide access to Big Data storage and fast analysis. Insights are super-fast and enable immediate action by both the buyer and seller. Retailers work with marketing research experts and at the same time, use Cloud computing resources to help crunch numbers, and look for buying patterns and trends through statistical analysis and machine learning.

The line between the real and virtual worlds is blurring

In the next few years, expect to see science fiction become retail fact, as augmented reality enhances trying-on-and-buying everything from clothes, cars and furniture to books, movies, and video games. Expect concerns over privacy (though important) to be offset by the convenience of highly personalized services and customized information.  IKEA lets you paint, style and place virtual furniture anywhere you drop their product catalogue through your smart phone or tablet.  Lego lets you see and rotate a fully constructed and animated Lego set on top of the box at a kiosk or through your device.

Experience replicators, holodecks and robots in your local stores, neighborhood and eventually at home as 3D printers, holographic displays and drones allow you to highly customize existing products, bring your own ideas to life and take delivery in hours.  Home Depot partnered with MakerBot last year to create a 3D printer station in the store where you can scan and customize a hard-to-find knob, handle or part almost as easily as matching a paint color.  Tablet-based, table-top and wearable holographic displays like CospeTech Holho and Microsoft HoloLens will allow for more immersive interaction with virtual products reducing the need for large amounts of inventory and retail space. Amazon, Google and others are actively refining driverless cars, trucks and drones to deliver your customized orders the same day (or hour).

As Doug Stephens, founder of industry website Retail Prophet and author of The Retail Revival states, “We will see more disruption in the next ten years of retail than we did in the previous one thousand.”

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group