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Using IoT to bring the online experience to brick-and-mortar stores

Brick-and-mortar retailers can learn a lot from the online shopping experience provided by e-commerce heavyweights such as Amazon, especially in the upcoming holiday season. By integrating these lessons in their stores with the latest internet of things technology, retailers can enhance the in-store shopping experience for customers and be more competitive with their virtual cousins.

First of all, what are the key features that shoppers like about the online experience?

  • Easy to purchase one or a handful of items quickly
  • Receive shipped items within a couple of days (or same day)
  • Loyalty programs for discounts on items and shipping
  • Broad and deep selection — wide variety of items that are rarely out of stock
  • Purchase history and wish list for easy recall

Retailers can achieve many of these online features by taking full advantage of the latest IoT technologies such as RFID. With RFID tags becoming more prevalent, retailers can leverage ceiling-mounted antennas in the stores that read the tags and track the location of every item in the store in real-time.

With this knowledge, the retail customer experience and engagement can be enhanced by:

  • Limiting the time spent shopping in-store for a single or several items by providing the location of an item on a kiosk or app
  • Enabling customers to conduct “self-service” and order items for pick-up later or have the items delivered same day
  • Finding an item not available at one store location at another store nearby for same-day shipping
  • Offering loyal customers discounts with locations of specific items they are likely interested in purchasing
  • Providing coupon alerts to customers near specific products in the store
  • Allowing customers to view purchase history or wish list items on kiosk or in-app to identify regular purchases or those desired on their last visit

RFID-based, real-time location services would also give more salespeople the time and freedom to address customer needs and find desired items anywhere in the store more quickly. Salespeople could also more easily determine what related items the customer might likely be interested in seeing to add to the overall “basket” of merchandise. The RFID system could make recommendations based on what other items the customer has picked up in the store, or the system could retarget them later during another in-store or online visit.

In a connected “smart” store, customers can become engaged immediately, from the mobile device they carry to the products they interact with, and get the best of both worlds. They can experience the convenience they enjoy from online shopping with the personal service and attention only an in-store experience can provide.

The good news is that insights available from real-time item level tracking are as valuable to the consumer as they are to the retailers, brands and suppliers. Inventory management, product information, customer trends and more can all converge seamlessly through an IoT dashboard.

In my next article we will look at how RFID tech is being used to streamline back-end store operations for optimum efficiency, effectiveness and profitability.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.