"Internet of Things": A way towards wonderful "In-Shop" experience
Posted by Ashish Verma, Senior Consultant, RCLORC-SBL
The word "Things" rang a bell when I heard this term for the first time. I researched and found that "Things" can be any tangible object that can be represented by an IP address and has capability to communicate with world of internet. This excited me a lot as it looked to be an upcoming revolution. The "Internet of things (IoT)" is at its early stages of development and will keep on evolving with the convergence of technological advances in sensing devices/microelectronics, telematics and analytics. This whole thing of "Things" looks amazing and paves way for immense possibilities of data sources and its flow.
Recently I started working for a retail client and this gave me an opportunity to ask myself how this new concept will change the purchasing behavior or rather purchasing experience of customer (read "connected customer")? How retailers are going to react to the "IoT"? Will they adopt it or not? Will it have an impact on their processes? Will it help them regain what they have conveniently lost to online retailers? Let's explore in the below few lines.
Going by the definition of "IoT", it is evident that it has capability to allow products and shelves to communicate with inventory management system, order management system, billing system or with any other IT system. This brings a lot of interest and if we further ponder upon its applications in "in-shop" retail house, it opens a gate for the whole new shopping experience. Customer will no longer be needed to stand in a queue for billing at a retail store....looks like I am kidding? But next few lines will let you know how it is possible. Customer will take a product from the shelf and put it in a "Smart Cart". The smart cart will have the scanning capability attached to it. This smart cart will update the billing system and the smart shelf will keep updating the replenishment system as well. The same smart cart will keep updating you about your billing amount to allow you to make further purchase decision. Auto checkout counter will generate bill to your credit/debit card for the items in your shopping cart. Fabulous! Customer's waiting time at billing counter has almost been reduced to naught.....bang on........customer is happy.
Another interesting application of "IoT" is in retail apparel house. We all have seen that almost every apparel house has fitting rooms located at the corner of their store........what if we have connected fitting rooms enabled with "IoT". It will be really interesting to see how connected fitting rooms will help customer choose the right cloth in case he has picked up a wrong size or colour. A connected fitting room will know which items you have picked up, what you are trying on and will let you request different sizes and colours from the room itself. But let me add a word of caution here, though this idea looks very promising and interesting but the cost of such fitting room is a factor that needs to be evaluated vis-a - vis the RoI that it will generate. Real challenge will be to see if supporting staff is able to provide needed support for the customer sitting in a connected fitting room when store is crowded and other customers need equal attention on the floor as well.
After learning about "IoT", one thing is very clear to me that upcoming digital technologies have open many floodgates for innovation in retail industry. There pros and cons can be evaluated by retailers before going for "IoT" enabled store but it is sure that this new way of shopping experience will be a key competitive differentiator for the retailers and a way to increase foot fall in their stores. At least at the outset, this looks an attractive proposition both for the customer and the retailer. Isn't it?
Guys, this topic has opened a new gate of thoughts for me something like Pandora's Box and I am going to explore more on this in coming days. So, do look out for my next blog on "IoT" wherein we will check out how it is changing not only the "things" within the shop but beyond as well.