Leading retailers are convinced the role of “Internet of Things” in retail spaces will rise dramatically in the coming years. And they’re not just blowing hot air: A report from last summer predicted that IoT-related investments by retailers would hit $2.5 billion by 2020.
Most of those investments are still on the horizon, but retailers have started to dip their toes into IoT-related technologies. Beaconing technology and free in-store Wi-Fi are helping evolve the brick-and-mortar retail space. Meanwhile, Web-connected mobile technology, ranging from smart shelves to assisted selling touchpoints in stores, is slowly building out a network of devices making up this new IoT landscape.
But far more sweeping changes are yet to come, and retailers will have to open up their wallets if they want to catch the first wave of dedicated IoT investment. As increased mobile touchpoints generate new mountains of consumer data, countless new opportunities will emerge, governing everything from customer interactions to the ideal price-point for a product.
And for all the physical change IoT will bring, the secondary changes driven by this newfound data figure to be even more revelatory in the long run.
Retailers Eager For Change
According to research from eMarketer, IoT is one area of development where thought leaders project a huge victory for retailers. In fact, leaders from across a wide range of industries — all of them very familiar with IoT technology — ranked retail as the industry that stands to benefit most from these opportunities.
And only 34 percent of retail professionals said their companies currently don’t know how they would implement IoT. That’s a low figure for technologies that, by and large, are yet to reach the mainstream retail space.
But retailers grasp the possibilities of this technology, and may already be working on solutions to leverage IoT opportunities. Starbucks, for example, has designed an IoT cafe environment in which a centralized system manages and operates coffee makers and ovens. According to ReadWrite, consumers can place custom orders without the help of a cashier or barista, and the drink order will be fulfilled with a lower rate of error.
Your local Starbucks may not feature this new innovation tomorrow, but it’s on the way — brands are salivating at the opportunities. However, IoT shouldn’t be seen as an eventual replacement for humans in the retail space: Consumers have already made it clear they prefer human faces as part of their shopping experience.
Instead, IoT will largely be used to transform traditional experiences and support sales staff. But make no mistake: The results will be stunning.
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