IoT Applications in Retail

Retail IoT applications are reforging their industry. Smart warehouses optimize the way things are inventoried and shipped. The smart shop is allowing retail experience designers to overcome the offline/online boundary. And the smart buyer phone application does the rest by transcending the instore / at home binary.

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Image of a woman shopping

Shopping—it’s an important part of everyday life, so much so that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that in 2017 that 40.2% of Americans purchased consumer goods daily.

Given the high demand for retail, it makes sense that the retail industry has begun taking advantage of the different solutions IoT has to offer. From automation of warehouse operations to the user journey of the end consumer, this article will cover three applications of IoT in the retail industry.

The Smart Warehouse

The first and perhaps the most important part in the buyer/retail journey is the shipment of the supplies from the warehouse to the product’s destination. With isles and isles of products, it can be taxing on the warehouse workers to find each shipment manually, so a building management system that can keep track of inventory and guide the workers to the correct location is as crucial for the efficiency of the company’s operational statistics as it is for the workers who perform them.

Companies like Datex and Digital Lumens provide system management solutions that can help speed up warehouse operations, optimize space, track inventory, and reduce energy costs. With the help of sensors and RFID technology, these dashboards can provide real-time updates to the warehouse inventory and aid in the positive flow of operations.

In addition to aiding in employee efficiency, these systems can also aid in the reduction of energy costs. As Digital Lumens puts it, “Lighting is a critical contributor to the productivity, efficiency, and safety of any industrial environment.” It makes sense that 34% of electricity end use in non-refrigerated warehouses comes from lighting. With smart LED fixtures and lighting controls, these facilities can reduce their energy costs by up to 90%. Helping the environment and saving money in the process? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

The Smart Shop

Have you ever gone to a store looking for a product that was listed as “in stock” online only to find out that the database lied to you? With smart retail labels (SRLs), retail stores can leverage RFID technology to “improve pricing accuracy, inventory management, and consumer-marketing.” They can instill a more efficient way of updating the backend database in their operations.

With products like Powershelf, retail companies can reduce “out of shelf” incidents, improve operational efficiency and management, and increase customer satisfaction.

The Smart Buyer Application

The third and final part of this journey is the end consumer’s purchase of the goods. Amazon Go set the bar high last year when it opened the doors of its cashier-free smart grocery store. Using cameras, beacons, and RFID readers, the system is able to recognize when a user has picked up an item and added it to their cart.

An image of an app that manages a smart retail use case. Shoppers can come and go as they please frictionlessly. The app is called the amazon go user mobile application onboarding.
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The Amazon Go app, shown above, is a great example of a retail IoT application. Prior to entering the store, users have the app downloaded and linked to their existing Amazon account. To enter the store, the shopper simply scans their phone, and they’re ready to shop. Once the shopper has what they need, they just take their bag and walk out. It’s hard not to see the value a customer experience like that. This method improves the feeling with which your customer leaves the store. It allows you to track your customer’s journey across the online/offline boundary. They never really leave your “retail store.” They take it home.