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The retail store of the future is here today

The adoption of enterprise IoT is accelerating rapidly. Companies across all sectors are moving from proofs of concept to full-scale deployments. By 2020, there will be 34 billion connected devices worldwide, and these devices are transforming every industry, from healthcare to hospitality to transportation — and especially retail.

IoT-enabled technologies, with their ability to bring digital practices and data collection into real-world physical scenarios, are starting to revolutionize traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. IoT-enabled sensors, for instance, which can collect data on consumer behavior within a store on the micro-level, are helping retail businesses of all sizes to enhance their operations, work more efficiently and better serve their customers. In the process, these products and services are creating the retail stores of the future, today.

So, what do these stores look like in practice?

When a customer walks through the door of their favorite, IoT-enabled retail outlet, he’s entering into a completely new kind of shopping experience. If a customer has the retail store’s app on his phone, the store’s sensors will recognize the device and enhance his shopping experience based on the information the customer has already shared with the retailer. For example, the store may recognize the customer’s wish list and then send a push notification telling the customer where he can find a particular item. And if he decides to purchase an item, the customer can receive personalized recommendations for additional products and services at checkout.

Meanwhile, the IoT-enabled sensors are also bringing the store to a new level of efficiency. When a customer walks into the store, an employee can receive her wish list on a tablet or wearable device. The employee can easily offer the customer directions, advice or other services. At the same time, IoT-enabled sensors in the back of the store are tracking inventory and providing employees with updates in real time. If a particular item sells out, a manager can receive a notification to resupply and to meet customer demands.

As all of this is happens, advanced data analytics are helping retailers get a sense of real-time consumer sentiment, which they can use to optimize the layout of the retail store. IoT-enabled cameras and real-time data on purchasing decisions can help individual stores better understand the behaviors of their customers. IoT-enabled sensors can create heat maps that show where customers are spending time while they browse. For example, if a particular table of sweaters is capturing the attention of customers, managers can move that table up towards the entrance to bring in new business.

IoT retail technologies let customers experience all the benefits of shopping online along with all of the benefits of shopping in-store. They can look at, compare and try on certain items — all while receiving personalized recommendations that make the shopping experience more convenient. The customer leaves the customer more satisfied and more delighted, which leads to higher levels of brand loyalty, more time spent in stores and more money spent on purchases.

While this may all sound like science fiction, this is happening now. From the moment customers walk into an IoT-enabled store to the time they walk out with a new purchase, customers can receive a more personalized and seamless retail experience without having to prompt an employee. At the same time, retail stores are managing their employees and their inventory more efficiently, while using advanced data analytics to understand consumer behavior and maximize their offerings. It all adds up to a retail environment that does more to help both the business and the customer.

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