How the IoT is Changing the Future of Retail

You have already heard the buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT). This idea won the customers’ attention not so long ago, even though it’s not a fresh one.

The question today is what does the IoT mean for retail? How is it going to change shopping in the future?

What is the IoT?

Well, you’ve heard a lot about the IoT, but do you really know what it is?

The basic concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting various internet-enabled devices to Internet and/or to each other. When it comes to smartphones, headphones, fridges, lamps, washing machines and everything you can see around, all these devices are able to ‘talk’ to each other, as well as to apps and to users, they can even share information, analyse it and control one another.

What does the IoT mean for retail?

The IoT provides a world of possibilities for devices and sensors to gather data, relay it to the cloud to be processed and then trigger a response or action in real-time. So for that matter, we can say that only the sky’s the limit whether it’s personalizing experiences, automating services, optimizing processes, simplifying buying and decision-making or using data insights to improve operations.

Besides, we’ve got smart fridges with interior cameras that you can access from your smartphone to see exactly what you’ve got in, and what you need to buy at the shops. But much more developments seem to appear on the horizon yet.

For example, imagine a built-in sensor in a pair of trainers which can talk to your smartphone and not only track steps but also remind when it’s time to buy a new pair. And think about food packaging with sensors that can automatically reorder a replacement when thrown away. The ability to connect all sorts of objects to the internet could see a whole new wave of e-commerce emerging, while also providing greater convenience to the customer.


IoT in store

IoT also has implications in store. Smart shelves are already being used to monitor stock levels and automatically notify staff, or even reorder extra stock, when running low. Digital price tags can also automatically adjust pricing based on demand or other external factors.

And what about sensors around the store that can alert you to where customers are at any time? This information could be relayed to staff devices or wearables so they can provide assistance, but it could also help you identify customer journeys and how long they spend in various parts of the store. You could even use this to test the response to new promotions by seeing if certain products increase dwell time.

Why now?

The rise of the IoT is in part down to wider trends in the market, such as the huge growth in accessibility of smartphones and high-speed internet. At the same time, the cost of these products, sensors and cloud computing tech is decreasing.

But for every plus there’s a minus and there are some issues that still need to be ironed out. The main issue is lack of standardization, and sometimes compatibility, between the way devices connect and communicate. It makes hard to link various devices together for customers.

And essential questions concern also privacy and security. If devices are collecting data about customers who owns that information? Who can access it? How secure are devices? Could someone gain access to your home by hacking into your internet-enabled locking system? Or steal information on your customers? These are issues that developers are looking at closely if the IoT is to become a staple in everyone’s homes and businesses.


The future with the IoT

As you can notice, the IoT influence all parts of the buying process, and even our lives. What is more, smart devices keep learning from how users interact with them, which means they’re just going to keep getting smarter and that’s exciting.

However, it’s important not to get lost among modern devices making ‘dumb’ objects ‘smart’ for the sake of it. If it’s not providing a solution to a problem, or a more convenient, efficient or enjoyable way of doing things, then it’s probably not worth doing.