By Praveen Nair, Development Expert, SAP Labs India
According to Gartner Inc. there will be nearly 26 billion devices by 2020. This means, each of us, on an average, would be connected with at least 3 devices. In such a scenario, imagine the plethora of solutions that could be built to simplify people’s lives.
While IoT is entering all segments of the market, trying to bring in newer dimensions to the way things operate, retail is one area which offers a bigger scope ( with regard to the number of people that it can touch ) in solving complex problems and providing the best-in-class user experience.
Retail business is quite challenging due to the fact that it has seen many paradigm shifts caused by constant changes in technology. Retailers have to remodel their businesses in order to meet the changing technology demands. The Internet of Things could have a tremendous impact on retail — from ordering inventory, to understanding the customer, the technology behind the IoT will transform the shopping experience.
For retailers looking to transition into the IoT, it’s important to remember to offer the customer reasons to buy into the technology. Such reasons must appeal to the customers’ desire to score a bargain, as well as simplify the shopping mission and create the appropriate level of engagement. Internet of Things (IoT) is one way of achieving this. Retailers are working hard, trying to merge IoT with their business to provide a better shopping experience in-store.
Several of the retail challenges can be solved using consumer apps. All that the consumer needs to do is install the app from the device’s App store. Once installed, the app can have a simple registration and thereafter the app knows the shopping patterns of the end user.
Augmenting the retail floor into the app can give a visual scene of how the retails shop floor looks like. The app should draw the navigation path to guide the user to the correct aisle. From the moment user sets foot into the store, the device knows the whereabouts of the user and informs the retailer in-store. The cameras running face detection algorithms can provide the human touch without having to deploy human resources.
When a user walks near a product, he can be notified about the offers that are available on the product or the products in that aisle. From here the user should be able to search for any product just by typing in the details. The app can then pull out the online review provided by real shoppers so that the end user gets a clear review and not a biased one.
Today, to hire a store helper is expensive and the retail outlets have limited number of them. Users have to wait to identify a helper who is free and can guide them. Moreover these helpers might give a biased review of the slow moving products to ensure that it is pushed out of the store quicker. These problems can be solved by the app.
When the user has found the product, he need not carry them around in a shopping basket. The user should be able to add the product simply by pointing the phone at the item. The smart phone can scan the item or it’s barcode to identify the product. Once the user is done with choosing the items, they just walk to the checkout counter by displaying the ID from the phone’s app. While the checkout is being carried out, the items are collected and packed. Once the user is outside the store, they can simply pick up their bag and leave.
While the above process has been useful for the buyer, the retailer is going to benefit from the analytics generated in tracking the users while they are in the store. The analytics will talk about the users’ buying patterns, the most sold products, etc. With such information in hand, the retailers can think of strategies that can help their business. The past and present trends can predict how the store is going to perform and alert the retailer on which products need extra stocking. The predictive trends can give a better decision making power to the retailer. The retailer, in short, can identify those hidden trends which can propel the business in a more profitable direction.
The retailer must have a robust back end system that can not only support the amount of data being exchanged but it must be able to analyze and act upon the data in near real-time to ensure employees are maximizing revenue, productivity and efficiency.
Consumer demand for convenience, product availability, personalized and contextualized interactions will drive retailers to adopt multiple IoT technologies. This beckons a fresh evaluation of IoT opportunities in retail, as the challenges diminish and the consumer demand for interactive, engaging, and convenient retail experience will trump any hesitance to invest in IoT.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of SAP.