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Retail Industry Bets Big on the Internet of Things

Posted by Zebra N. America

March 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM



The Internet has sent a myriad of industries into a disruptive tailspin, and the retail sector is no exception.

Now merchants are turning to the very instrument that pushed them into a defensive crouch to catalyze innovation, operational efficiencies and growth, according to Zebra’s 2017 Global Retail Vision Study.

Merchants are betting on the Internet of Things, the growing network of web-enabled physical objects, to digitally enhance stores and keep consumers coming through the door in the era of online shopping.

They’re also turning to IoT to upgrade back-office functions by streamlining and optimizing their supply chain operations.

Getting ‘Phygital’

Retailers are tapping the IoT’s range of “smart” devices, powered with sensors and network connectivity that collect and exchange data, to get “phygital,” so to speak.

Merchants from department stores and specialty chains to supermarkets and home centers are digitizing the in-store experience to improve customer service with conveniences like automated inventory verification and personalized shopper offers.

Merchants surveyed ranked locationing platforms, for example, such as sensors that track consumers’’ footpath throughout the store and beacons that trigger in-store offers, as their key technology budget goals.

And they’re banking on these IoT technologies to carry out their top personalization goals: Knowing when specific shoppers are in store; knowing where customers are in the store; and customizing their store visits.

By 2021, 75% of stores will not only know when particular customers are in the store, but will also be able to customize the store visit for them, the study found. 

IoT’s Inventory Management Makeover

But personalizing the shopper experience is of little benefit when pain points that have long bedeviled the in-store shopping journey still exist, like tracking down inventory.

To that end, retailers are investing heavily in rolling out in-store IoT solutions such as sensors on shelves, automated inventory verification, as well as cameras and video analytics. The goal is to provide a real-time snapshot of the actual inventory in the store — whether it’s on a shelf or in the back room, to counter out of stocks, a key source of customer dissatisfaction, the survey found.

In fact, 65% of retailers surveyed plan to invest in automation and smart sensing by 2021 for inventory management and planogram compliance.

Retailers are also implementing radio frequency identification technology to boost inventory management accuracy in a multichannel retail landscape, where consumer purchases increasingly span physical, online and mobile spaces.

RFID technology, what’s been called the next generation of the barcode, enables real-time product tracking throughout the supply chain. Studies have shown that the technology holds the potential to boost inventory accuracy to 95%.

In addition to enhancing the shopping experience and streamlining retail operations, IoT technologies from RFID tags to beacons sensors provide a treasure trove of data on consumer preferences and buying patterns.

By 2021, 75% of retailers plan to implemented item-level RFID to automate inventory visibility.

And retailers are diving into it: They’re tapping IoT platforms to transform real time, visibility driven data throughout the supply chain and shopping journey into actionable insights that elevate the in-store and digital shopping experience, while modernizing their operations to fuel growth.

Sixty seven percent of the retailers surveyed have implemented IoT, and another 26% are planning to deploy it within a year. Is your business among them?

To learn more, download Zebra's 2017 Global Retail Vision Study. >>

Topics: RFID, Retail, North America, IoT, Future of Retail, Enterprise Asset Intelligence, retail technology, retail study