Smart Retail Technology is Here
The online revolution for retail continues to roll, with big-box retailers who fail to adapt falling by the way-side. You’ve read plenty of stories of this trend coming and dominating. We are reaching now the part of that story where the novel becomes standard. Smart technology is here!
The biggest downside for consumers when making an online purchase is the lack of a physical product experience. This remains the most important reason for retailers to retain a presence in the form of a storefront. Now new trends in retail technology are helping retailers better integrate customer physical and online experiences. In some cases overcoming the physical limitation completely is possible by inviting customers to participate in an augmented reality.
The first wave of retail’s Internet revolution completely changed the way that people make purchases. This change was fast and directly obvious. The second was of this revolution is not so obvious, but it is here nevertheless. Radius Networks is improving the way that customers and restaurant chains transact by leveraging a user-friendly Bluetooth infrastructure. Amazon Go stores epitomize the idea that a company that is to survive into the future must provide a more personal customer experience.
New technology trends – the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and (in a supporting role) cloud computing – are already contributing individually to the industry. However, it is the combination of these technologies that will be truly revolutionary. The effect is not only about the combination, but more importantly how each piece builds upon and magnifies each other.
AR holds a lot of promise in terms of helping consumers “try on” in their current reality the product they are shopping for. This can help solidify a decision to purchase online, ship, build, etc. an item that would otherwise not be considered. You’ve probably seen a person using a cell phone camera to virtualize a new piece of furniture, right there in front of them. This is the “augment” to reality that helps in a buyer’s decision-making process. Using AR in this way helps to reduce improper sizing, color choice, etc., ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and reducing returns.
The technical trick to AR is its base in “reality” which requires a strong environmental understanding. Thus it will be increasingly supported by incorporating data from “the edge”. This includes real-time location, sensing, and monitoring information delivered to a device or cloud enterprise application. Low-power wireless networks help keep costs down while reducing the friction of integration into existing infrastructure.
AI also holds great potential to shape a buyer’s experience and ultimately increase money spent. The quality of data being fed into AI is key to the system’s learning and success in predicting future behavior, needs and wants. Much of this data today is gleaned from online activity: websites visited, mobile app usage, social media, etc. In the future similar information will come via IoT sensor data from consumer behavior in the physical world. Just like with AR, adding IoT data to the mix of big data inputs enables AI to have an even more meaningful impact on the consumer experience.
Imagine a retail scenario where a customer walks into a clothing store that is enhanced by Bluetooth devices and applications. This retailer has the advantage of being able to:
- Immediately identify a repeat customer (via a mobile loyalty/couponing application).
- Track that the customer picks up a shirt of a known brand, size, and color (via clothing beacons for asset tracking, inventory management, and theft prevention) and takes it into a fitting room, before returning it to the rack (indoor location tracking).
- Send a mobile coupon for next time, as the customer leaves the store having purchased nothing.
- Follow up days later with an in-stock notice for an item that was not available in the store, but that AI indicates might be a preference.
All of the relevant in-store data is acquired by a variety of sensors, where it is processed and filtered by gateways before being fed into a cloud-hosted AI application. Real-world data can then combine with online activity profiles, opening up a new world of customer insight, preferences, and future promotion opportunities.
Internet of Things and the Next Retail Technology Revolution
Necessarily supported by increasing amounts of physical IoT data from the edge, this is how AI and AR cloud applications will lead the next revolution in retail – by both allowing customers to “test drive” products in their local environments, and enabling retailers to tie customer in-store behavior to online behavior. And regardless of where a purchase is ultimately made the brand experience is improved through more focused targeting.
Improved, data-backed insights are made possible by the integration of edge data built on wireless infrastructure, whether that ‘edge’ is in the home or a retail storefront. This is the next retail technology revolution.
Looking for a wireless edge infrastructure that is stable, scalable and secure? Connect with our Solutions Team Today. We’re always ready to discuss how we can make commercial IoT work for you without the complexity, cost and risk.
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