IoT Is Giving Brick-And-Mortar Stores Ammo Against Online Shopping

The internet, and the creation of online market places such as Amazon have led to many to proclaim the death of the physical store. But technology is proving to become a valuable ally to the brick-and-mortar retailer.

The once distinct division between in-store retail and e-commerce is blurring as the digitally-connected shopper browses and transacts wherever and whenever is convenient to them. That, in turn, should inspire retailers to become much more sophisticated in how they anticipate demand, manage and move inventory, and bridge the gap between physical, virtual, and mobile channels.

To facilitate this change, devices are being used to connect with each other, with humans and with the world around them. These connected devices are underpinning the Internet of Things (IoT) and as such are presenting a valuable opportunity for retailers.

We recently posted an article here on Boundless magazine about how retailers can prepare for IoT. But what scenarios exist where can retailers put this into practice? How can IoT be used to further consolidate the consumer relationship?

Take stock rooms for example, these are now being equipped with sensors to better inform retailers when a particular item of clothing is running low. Retailers will never miss out on a sale that will always hinge on inventory availability. Some retailers are combating the threat of showrooming – when a shopper visits a store to check out a product but then purchases the product online from home – by using technology to conduct real-time price matching and by equipping in-store employees with tablets that have point-of-sale capabilities. Arming employees in this way provides a better way of gathering meaningful information, like purchase histories, to create in-depth interactions with shoppers.

With all these examples, there is an opportunity to learn more about customers and shopper behavior to drive sales and, above all, build on loyalty. For retailers, this is more than becoming the store of the future, it’s about becoming the store for life.

Retailers can use the data collected from consumers that have “opted in”, to create customer profiles to produce personalized advertising. This is helping retailers to better understand exactly what consumers want from the shopping experience.  

Some retailers are introducing gamification to appeal to customers’ appetite for competition. As retailers learn more about their customers, it allows them to move beyond discount or points clubs to more bespoke offers that are relevant to a shopper’s location, task and life event. Are we that far away from receiving pre-ordered birthday presents from our favourite retailer amongst those from our family and friends? 

The relationship between retailer and consumer will no doubt evolve faster in the next 5 years than it has in the last 10 or the previous 50 before that. As long as technology underpins future strategy, retailers can continue to reap the rewards.



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