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INSIGHTS

How do smart solutions benefit retailers?

How do smart solutions benefit retailers?
The rise of connected IoT devices and access to unprecedented levels of data are taking retail from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Technological advancements are refreshing the traditional brick and mortar store experience, reimagining the digital storefront and transforming the supply chain.
The rise of connected IoT devices and access to unprecedented levels of data are taking retail from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Technological advancements are refreshing the traditional brick and mortar store experience, reimagining the digital storefront and transforming the supply chain.

According to Michelle Tinsley, Director of Mobility & Secure Payments in Retail Solutions Division at Intel, fusing environmental and customer data is leading to seamless, personalized online and in-store experiences that build affinity and delight customers. As retail becomes more smart and connected, new experiences can become second nature, such as virtual reality-enabled shopping, the emergence of the fourth channel with in-home “buttons” for instant ordering, 24/7 self-service kiosks, and e-wallet payment options.   With IoT, commerce may happen anywhere consumers may be browsing, waiting or dwelling- as new devices can offer goods for spontaneous purchase.

“On the back-end, access to real-time insights can drive operational efficiencies, which in turn can generate more sales,” Tinsley said. “The successful modern retail experience will be built upon a foundation of understanding and interpreting the shopper behavior through their journey, then enhanced by measurable and valuable data insights gained to anticipate and respond customer needs, in real time. With the help of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence that are showing advances in automating routine tasks, sales associates can now focus on higher value activities that involve creating a more engaging customer experience. Even the roll out of pop-up stores, outfitted with technology, provide retailers a cost-effective solution to bring retail to consumers and test new markets without large inventory or real-estate investments.”

Ultimately, smart retail helps retailers by first helping shoppers, and what’s good for shoppers is good for business. Long gone are the days of retail’s chief merchant dictating the shopping experience to shoppers. The internet has empowered shoppers like never before, and shoppers have firmly grasped control, and forever so. Their shopping journeys are now powered by unfiltered access to information and they have global shopping alternatives. Smart retail is all about being shopper-centric retail.

Ray Hartjen, Director of Marketing at Retailnext pointed outsmart retail is using the Internet of Things (IoT) to eliminate – or at least minimize – the friction points for shoppers in their shopping journeys.

“Product and service information, inventory accessibility and availability, fitting room management and queues are all long-standing opportunities that are being solved for, and the retailers that do so first and provide seamless shopping experiences for customers across all of their branded touchpoints– both digital and physical - are poised to become the new ‘retailers of choice’ by shoppers,” Hartjen said.

The key factor among all this is the artificial intelligence that’s poised to take over a large chunk of work in the retail space. Gary Yeh, Product Manager at IEI Integration suggested these will reduce the operating costs, increase predictive accuracy and enhance brand image.

In many ways then, the year 2017 is going to be quite eventful for the retail industry. Quite a few changes are expected and these changes are going to lead to a transformation on how retailers themselves view the industry.

What to watch out for in 2017
Perhaps the major factor to look out for in this year would not be the technology, but its implementation to provide tailored solutions. Cheerfy, a U.K.-based company that provides Wi-Fi-based customer recognition and relationship tool suggests the key word here is “personalization”. Customers are looking for an experience that’s meant only for them. Tinsley agreed to this, explaining that retailers now have to make custom, personalized products through made to order products. She gave an example of a recently-unveiled solution that Intel and the knitting machines manufacturer Shima Seiki that can knit custom sweaters in less than an hour. Made to order products like these have the potential to upend the fashion supply chain and make the business of forecasting obsolete.

Elaborating more on specific solutions, Hartjen said RFID has greatly evolved, particularly with item-level tagging. With sensor fusion of a combination of technologies, it is now possible to efficiently and effectively track the movement of shoppers, sales associates and products, for the first time giving visibility to exactly what is happening in-store, from the door through the store and back out again.
Technologies to greater empower the sales associate, be it through training or just simple in-store communications, are being deployed more rapidly, and shoppers are receiving a direct benefit by being able to interact with a more informed, more connected sales staff.

“Shoppers are also gravitating toward technology assists, all powered by the connected store,” Hartjen said. “Augmented reality apps allow shoppers to see how furniture might look in their homes, for example, and various tools, including smart mirrors, tablets and the like, allow them to effortless change colors and styles, understand accessories and other options, and so forth. A challenge, of course, is for brands to integrate all of their various smart store solutions into one stable, reliable platform. Customer-facing smart store solutions have to provide immediate benefit to shoppers, and in the process of doing so, they deliver vast amounts of data about shopping behaviors and values back to the brand, and those insights can prove invaluable in continually improving the shopping experience.”
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