No matter what you sell, data is a key ingredient. Clothes are made of fabric, thread, a splash of design genius, and data. What is a pizza but cheese, dough, and tomato sauce (or, if you’re adventurous, bechamel or teriyaki or whatever)? It is also data. You get the picture.
So how does data find its way into everything we sell and buy? It’s the stuff transactions are made of. It’s the lifeblood of quality control, inventory management, and marketing. It is literally money. The Internet of Things handles data flow automatically, with nary a clipboard or handheld scanner in sight.
But if IoT is a data river, network connectivity is the riverbed. Without reliable connections, that river becomes a swamp…one that can drown your sales goals and even splash mud on your brand. Here are just a few of the ways IoT is revolutionizing the retail industry—plus a solid strategy for making sure your IoT systems stay connected amid storms, network failures, and anything else bad luck throws your way.
IoT for Retail: New Solutions for Old Problems
The retail industry used to run on paper inventory records, paper sales reports, and paper money. It was inefficient. It took up space and time, leading to higher costs. In fact, IoT solutions, from back-office automation to digital inventory management to the real prize—better customer experiences—are likely to double store profits for adopters, according to McKinsey analysts.
Here are some examples—far from all of them, but enough to paint a picture—of how IoT is changing the way retailers operate:
- Connected Point of Sale (POS) Systems. Don’t think of the POS terminal as an IoT device? Think again. It’s connected to a network, and with today’s end-to-end systems, it can both record financial transactions and automatically update inventory records in real time. That’s machine-to-machine data flow: IoT all the way.
- Mobile POS. Want to sell your wares at the local festival? Mobile POS follows you to your customers, wherever they gather—all through cellular networks. (We’ll discuss the reliability of these networks more in a bit.)
- Self-Service Sales Kiosks. Customers are increasingly used to doing things for themselves. With connected self-service kiosks, they can buy your products on site, without waiting in line.
- Automated Compliance Reporting. If you sell perishables or temperature-sensitive products, you need to know they’re safe (and so does the Food and Drug Administration). IoT sensors track everything from temperatures to open fridge doors 24/7. You can even set up a system to feed this data into automated compliance reports.
- End-to-End Asset Tracking. From the warehouse to your customer’s doorstep, mobile IoT solutions bring visibility to your product’s location and condition. Everyone wants to know when their latest treat is arriving; IoT parcel tracking lets you tell them.
That brings us to the greatest challenge of implementing these IoT solutions: reliable connectivity. These connections are essential for outstanding customer experiences in this era of online retail. You can’t afford to lose access to your e-commerce systems for even a moment.
Reaching 100 Percent Uptime for Retail IoT Systems
Think Wi-Fi is reliable? That depends on your telecom provider—and no single provider is immune to equipment failure, natural disasters, or the odd construction project that severs a fiber optics line. Cellular networks, then? Better, maybe, but traditional contracts with carriers leave you with the same vulnerability: You’re stuck with one provider. If that network goes down, so do sales.
Most mobile network operators (MNOs) don’t love the idea of sharing customers. Lately, though, a revolution in wireless connectivity is changing the game. One robust solution is redundancy, access to all the carriers in your coverage area. Choose an MNO that offers a multi-carrier SIM card with the support to match—they’re out there. Multi-carrier SIMs are plug-and-play connectivity solutions that provide fail-over redundancy for rock-solid IoT network access.
This is a new generation of SIM—a Subscriber Identification Module, the circuitry that tells carriers which customer is accessing the network and forms the point of connection for data transfer. With a multi-carrier SIM from a multi-carrier MNO, you get the reliability that comes from many networks, not just one. If the Verizon network fails, the SIM “fails over” to, say, AT&T—and it does this automatically, without manual intervention.
In short, if you want the advantages of IoT in retail, you need the strongest connectivity available. That’s what multi-carrier SIMs give you. By the way, this post is just one in a series on IoT connectivity in all sorts of industries. Check out our coverage of cellular IoT in hospitality, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture; we’ll add links as we publish.