The retail environment is more competitive than anyone can remember, with initiatives like omnichannel putting customer-focus and individualization firmly at the core of strategies that are driving repeat business, and – when successful – creating brand advocates of loyal customers.
That’s making the marketplace in retail technology-driven, yet, retail still has razor-thin margins, so it’s to improvements in operational efficiencies that many are rightly looking. Initiatives like loss-prevention, supply chain management, and inventory systems can push those cost figures downwards. But there have been several high-profile instances recently of businesses that have either tried and failed to make the digital transformation journey, or who have ignored the inexorable influence of technology, to their detriment.
In a market where digitalization is central, it’s ironic therefore that brick-and-mortar stores are the new battleground, with inventory, products, pricing strategies and promotions aligning between online and physical formats: that’s omnichannel, and it’s powered by technology.
But unlike its online counterparts, in-store monitoring of the customer journey rarely happens. It’s in a new generation of IoT for retail that the answers lie, it’s where we are capable of tracking customers, logging behavior patterns, and then optimizing aspects of the experience like inventory, prices, offers and so on, both in-store and through the supply chain.
Traditional IoT is about simple issues, usually centered around static monitoring; of light, heat, air-conditioning and the like. That’s great to reduce some aspects of retailers’ cost-burden, but more advanced tech in that field is what is behind the most exciting omnichannel, in-store customer experiences.
As considered in this article, Dell Technologies’ IoT-enabled computer vision has significant possibilities. Cameras have for many years been used as security devices, and indeed, the possibilities on that score alone are multiplying – you can read more about Dell Technologies IoT Solution for Surveillance on the company’s website. However, in this age of digital retail, what’s become apparent is that in stores, IoT-powered camera systems have enormous potential to produce significantly positive results on sales and make customer experiences more individualized.
The same technology used to protect stock can be used to measure patterns of customer movements around a store: Where do people pause? What catches shoppers’ eyes? What’s the typical journey that most undertake? Insights give retailers the opportunity to drive down costs, enrich the customer experience, and maximize the time spent in-store, on every single visit.
Data as simple as mapped customer journeys from online activity, combined with in-store physical tracking, can create omnichannel, individualized customer experiences. In-store images, captured by smart devices and processed by edge-based (or centralized, or cloud-based) computing power, can inform store layouts for future outlets, and suggest, in real-time, changes that might be made to hold customers’ attention and increase their satisfaction at key times throughout the day.
Add into the mix intelligent lighting (colors, luminescence, direction of shine, and even position) that could be controlled by interconnected systems. Attractive lighting – and perhaps integrated sound systems – could encourage and entice, reacting to real-time data and feedback from cameras, POS terminals and even simple but connected movement sensors tracking numbers walking in through the store doors.
There are plenty of solutions out there for the retailer wishing to explore their imaginations and create unique customer experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, but these products usually exist in isolation from one another, almost never integrating seamlessly with back-end technologies, and certainly don’t interface with online e-commerce “branches” for that essential continuity of omnichannel service and experience.
But with next-gen IoT edge, and the capabilities of Dell Technologies at hand, the possibilities are only limited by the store owners’ imaginations. Possibilities become apparent when technologies speak to one another: tighter inventory control can lead to automated shelf-fills, and smart promotions can be created in-store and online, with behaviors in either “realm” affecting the other.
In the UK, for example, chilled food distributor IMS Evolve has been collecting information along the supply chain from 6.6 billion data points using Dell Technologies Edge/IoT technology. It has achieved a cut of 49 percent in the amount of spoiled produce and saved $7 million in energy costs alone. And one US State now uses Dell Technologies Edge/IoT solutions and surveillance cameras to deploy snow plows more effectively, ensuring lower use of corrosive salts and safer roads – that’s over and above the dashcam-style idea behind the initial camera deployment.
Retail IoT technology,like video capture that’s only ever been about loss prevention, becomes a virtual cog in a much larger machine, when you have the oversight over the entire picture, and crucially, the capability to create the underpinning framework. Dell Technologies’ long experience in IoT and edge technology infrastructure helps power your imagination, creating many new concepts in retail.
How about real-time price reductions made on the fly at specific times according to certain conditions, with prices on shelf fronts changing electronically? Already, using IoT to respond to an identified customer in brick-and-mortar premises, some companies are prototyping electronic loyalty cards that work as well in-store as online. But why that feature in isolation?
Once the framework stretches from online to in-store to warehouse and supply chain, there’s the possibility of unified retail systems creating personalization at every step. Intelligent IoT in each store means customers that have shopped online or in other branches could be shown special offers based on their previous purchases, in real-time, during their visit.
In the future, that might be taken one step further to a staff-less, fully-automated shopping experience, in brick-and-mortar stores. That might be your end-game, but whether-or-not that is your goal, personalized shopping experiences in-store are already a reality – it’s up to you whether that’s your journey’s direction. It’s worth noting, however, that 81 percent of shopping now involves multiple channels, including in-store, and 73 percent of customers will switch brand for a better overall experience.
It might seem a simple matter to just drop technology into place, but the truth is, of course, that the infrastructure, knowledge, experience, hardware, and software required are not available from most retail suppliers, nor most mainstream technology companies. Dell Technologies has the breadth of experience and knowledge, in retail and IoT, to empower cutting edge creativity and pave the way to a connected, exciting near-future.
In many areas of the supply chain already improved by tech (like manufacturing technology, logistics, warehousing and more), it’s time that online and in-store gained parity, and it’s the next generation of IoT powered by Dell Technologies that can fire your imagination and make new ideas happen. How? By harnessing the data that flows from everywhere that’s connected.
With edge-based, cloud or central processing power, storage, and intelligent software from the world’s leading technologists, these ideas are not science fiction; these platforms already exist. It’s just a case of enabling new technologies in a unified, controllable manner. The potential is there for retailers; it just needs to be unlocked.
Learn more about Dell Technologies Edge/IoT , and how it and its partners can explore the full potential of retail spaces with IoT. For deeper insight into how technology and IoT are impacting the retail sector, check out this Dell Technologies Edge/ IoT blog, and read about their IoT Solution for Surveillance, or alternatively, speak to a Dell Technologies representative today.
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