We’ve been hearing about the opportunity that IoT will bring to each and every one for some time now. Connected transport, white goods and other electrical items all joining in together to make our day seem just that little bit easier. But how is it really going to matter? How will it truly give us time back or make our experiences in a retail world feel like we’ve taken a step forward?
For retail in particular, I believe you must have a clear problem to solve, efficiency to gain or advantage to give to a customer once your solution is implemented. Often solutions are not customer facing, but should aim to provide a seamless experience to ultimately benefit both the efficiency of the business and ultimately the customer.
Your first question should be, “How do I truly solve an actual problem?” Your IoT solution must be a true strategic choice that is of long term investment value for the retail environment. In particular, if you are buying hardware, can you ensure you solution will be supported long term? Will it get security and functionality updates for a good length of time for a great return on your capital investment? Otherwise you must ask yourself, why you are doing it?
So now you must ask yourself, “What can I start to do right now to properly utilize IoT in my retail environment?” In my opinion, IoT lends itself perfectly to automation of checklists, counting and maintenance.
• What do you constantly maintain, or wish you didn’t have to remember to maintain?
e.g. many retail environments already have automated printer cartridge replenishment and parts servicing.
• What equipment do you run?
• Does it have network attached capability?
• If it’s a hardware item, can you automate its servicing?
• Can we automate reporting from the device for usage?
• Can this solution count my stock or other transactions and then provide that information back to a database?
• Can this solution receive recipe or configuration updates remotely?
• Can this solution cut costs in production, development or assembly?
• Can this solution monitor and report on the environment my products are stored or shipped in? e.g. temperatures / movements / impacts
Now for something more exciting, “What can I do to directly interact with my customers?”
Again, just my opinion, I believe customers enjoy interacting with brands on their own devices such as their smart-phone or smart-watch. These devices themselves are opening the doors of the IoT frontier.
"Often solutions are not customer facing, but should aim to provide a seamless experience to ultimately benefit both the efficiency of the business and ultimately the customer"
• Can we now give our customer ability to receive full personalisation?
• Will my customer now receive in-depth loyalty with measurable benefits?
• Does your customer want quick access to their experience ‘last time’?
e.g. previous shopping lists or other selections
• Can we now make recommendations for the new items based on your previous experience or likes?
• Can we now quickly provide help for a customer that is looking for something?
• Can our customers now interact with smart shelves with smart pricing, on-hand and ingredient or construction details?
• Will our smart shelves request to be replenished for our customers?
• Can our customers now complete pre-orders for food/drinks or other merchandise both from outside or inside the store?
• Can you provide feedback based on health? e.g. what to eat or what to wear and why?
• Can we now produce a saleable product that is a part of the IoT ecosystem?
Can your IoT solution finally provide your marketing team with the answer to “why” your customer loves or hates your products or solutions and how you might get them back?
A final friendly reminder, hubris in technology is something every person must be aware of. So I must reiterate – “Don’t forget security!”
This comes in the forms of protecting both a customer’s data on any given device or solution, as well as also ensuring the device or solution can be constantly updated and prevented from being used as an attack vector inside your retail network. No business should allow themselves to be the next data leak or hacking pariah due to poorly programmed IoT devices.