The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, all gathering and sharing data. After the arrival of super-cheap computer chips and the pervasiveness of wireless networks, it’s possible to change anything, from something as small as a pill to something as big as an airplane, into a part of the IoT. Connecting up all these various objects and appending sensors to them adds a level of digital intelligence to devices that would be otherwise dumb, allowing them to deliver real-time data without including a human being. The Internet of Things is shaping the fabric of the world around us smarter and more responsive, mixing the digital and physical universes.
The Internet of Things (IoT) heralds a new era of computing whereby every imaginable object is implemented with or connected to a smart device providing data collection and communication through the Internet. The IoT challenges personal privacy in terms of the collection and use of individuals’ personal data. IoT technologies are essentially changing the way businesses function, empowering brick-and-mortar stores in robust market circumstances to remain competitive against their booming online counterparts.
Rising to the challenge
Customers who have become used to the ease of e-commerce generally complain that brick-and-mortar stores are inaccessible and that there is inadequate staff support or stock information accessible once they are there. Poor in-store customer service costs companies in the US $1.6 trillion (€1.40 trillion) last year. Businesses giving a superior customer experience gain 6% higher revenues on average. So it’s no surprise that customers are attracted by the instant delight of agile, online-only platforms.
E-commerce growth is accelerating globally, particularly in the West, but also in China, where 16.6% of retail sales are now conducted online. However, the high street can attain a ray of hope in game-changing technology such as IoT, which can combine the best features of online and in-person shopping to completely transform the customer experience.
Taking center-stage on the shop floor
Retailers have long accepted IoT technologies to track and refill stock. But they can now also receive the benefits of an IoT-connected experience on the shop floor. High-street food outlets, for example, can dispose of fridge-monitoring sensors to keep stock fresh, as well as sensors that trace customer experiences in restaurants.
Among customers’ common complaints are complex sales procedures or long checkout times. With IoT, retailers can set up systems that read tags on every item as a customer leaves the store. A checkout system can then match the total cost of these items and automatically subtract the payment using the customer’s mobile payment app. Such IoT-enabled, automated checkout can enhance customer satisfaction and make shoppers more willing to visit a physical store, especially if they want to get in and out quickly.
IoT technology can also be used to develop customer loyalty. Utilizing sensors set up around the store, retailers can give loyalty discounts via smartphones to target customers standing near several products, if those customers have signed up for such a program in advance. Additionally, IoT can keep a record of items a customer has used time looking at, and later send that customer a personalized discount for when they’re back in-store.
Savvy retailers all across the world are striving to stay competitive, and investment in these connected technologies is on the growth. Competing with the likes of online giants such as Amazon will forever be a challenge. However, the fact that Amazon has started opening its own brick-and-mortar stores, of course, with the latest in IoT tech describes there will always be demand for the in-store experience.
86% of retailers are presumed to increase their IoT spending in 2019 to avoid being left behind or becoming a business casualty. Failure to choose connected technologies will prove a costly mistake. However, retailers who can give the same seamless convenience found online are sure to see consumers gather back in-store.
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