How we shop has changed significantly over the last 10 years. This change has happened in both real world shops and online. Mobile devices were the driving factor in many of these changes, but now IoT and mobile devices are combining in ways never previously imagined.
The changes are so significant, that some retailers require little or no staff on the shop floor. This is not to say that everyone has lost their jobs, just that the type of employment and application of skills in retail is different now. As shoppers, we also expect more from retailers and interact with them in new ways.
Mobile Devices have Changed the Retail Landscape
It took a while from the introduction of mobile devices to really gain trust from consumers. However, with time and many improvements along the way, shoppers now use mobile devices more than ever. This trend of moving away from computers and real world stores is increasing in momentum.
In this Samsung retail report it is estimated that “Nearly 1 in 5 of those who have seen an ad via digital signage have made an unplanned purchase after seeing an item featured on a screen.” It shows not only a change in how we use devices, but also how devices can influence decisions and drive sales.
It isn’t simply the shoppers use of mobile devices that is changing things. On the shop floor, and behind the scenes, more and more retailers are using mobile devices to improve workflows, interactions, and profits. Mobile devices, applications, and connected networks are helping to bring companies together, form large franchises to smaller retailers. Branches in different areas can share instant information, stocks, and more.
Key Ways Mobile Devices have Changed Retail
Mobile devices have inspired many new ways of shopping. Being able to shop anytime and anywhere is a factor that appeals to both shoppers and retailers. To adapt to this, it sometimes requires that retailers undertake a ‘mobile systems overhaul’ of the business. However, often businesses just need some strategic implementation and adaptation to become more effective.
- Mobile Shopping Apps – While website shopping is still a big thing, many retail stores have launched their own apps. This has allowed for live communication, targeted promotions based on specific factors, notifications, and lots of extra data. Mobile commerce apps allow retailers to not only learn about their users, but for them to provide the best service possible, such as announcing promotions. Mobile commerce also allows for rapid deployment of deals and promotions, which for services or items with high demand to supply ratios (such as football games and concerts), rapid deployment can be a business game changer.
- Staff Management – Mobile devices and apps help companies to manage their staff centrally, no matter their location. This is an excellent way to roll out promotions to all staff, make workflow changes, or simply encourage more cooperation across the board. The systems can also help staff become more effective, more of a team, and also to provide motivation through accurate performance reviews.
- Digital Marketing – While apps do allow for direct promotions, mobile device marketing can grab user attention at ideal times. From adverts on Facebook, to text alerts when entering the location of a store, digital marketing is undoubtedly effective. Options for marketing is also currently expanding with AI (artificial intelligence), wearable smart devices, and augmented reality.
- Interactive Menus – Tablet devices and touchscreen displays are being used as interactive menus. They allow for customers to easily see what’s available, and to see a lot more information and images than a normal menu would allow. This can be combined with mobile checkouts to allow customers to pay via wallets and NFC capable cards securely.
When augmented reality is added to this, simply pointing a tablet or mobile at an item or shop can display lots of interactive information as though it was in the real world (with augmented reality, the users see the real world through the camera, but with extra virtual objects or information overlaid).
All of the above has had a big impact, but IoT and IIOT are taking things to new levels. The connection between IoT devices and mobile devices has completely revolutionised how retailers can operate, and what is available to shoppers.
IoT Combined with Mobile Devices is Synchronizing Retail with Customers
The effects of mobile devices has changed the approaches of shoppers, such as researching items on their mobile while standing in a store.
- Streamline Checkouts – One of the bottlenecks of shopping, whether online or real life, is the checkout process. Sometimes checking out can take as long as actually doing the shopping, if not longer. IoT has allowed for self service checkouts, NFC payments where you can pay with the wave of your phone or card, and other optimized checkout processes.
- Production Automation – Although retail is primarily about selling, some companies are also involved in production. Having automated processes via IoT devices is a necessity. When this is linked into mobile device management systems, and even to customer orders, the end result can be improved dramatically.
- Customization – With automated production process and mobile apps, it is now easier than ever to get fully customized gifts and items. The app allows customers to order what they would like changed, such as colours, graphics, designs etc. The app then shares this with the cloud management system for the IoT production process, which then automatically applies the changes to that item. While this is not possible for all types of production, it has allowed users to gain a new level of control over the production process for some.
- Inventory Automation – As retailers can’t sell what they don’t have, inventory management is vital. IoT devices, such as smart shelves, ground floor robots, and product tracking can help to make sure that customers get what they want. IoT devices can also order new stock and update production processes without human involvement.
- People Movement Optimization – User data gathered from mobile apps and IoT devices can give retail stores incredible insights into how users shop and how they use store spaces. This in turn can help them to improve the shopping experience and increase revenue. With IoT camera setups, retailers can even use heat mapping technology to see which areas of the store and items attract the most customer attention.
- Robot Support – Actual robots can provide support to customers, either directly through providing assistance, or indirectly by keeping the store clean and organized. Some of these robots have even helped people that were bedridden to find work and socialize, as they could control the support robots from their beds and interact with customers via the robot and interface. With improvements in AI, there is also an increasing usage of AI support bots.
- Automated Stores – Reduced theft through AI monitored cameras is just one aspect of automated storefronts. Smoother checkouts and self service have further changed the game. Smart security doors and intelligent shelf systems now also help to automate the entire shopping process. As things move forward, augmented reality is likely to combine heavily with IoT for more automation.
- Customer Satisfaction – As all of these devices are combined, the customer experience is significantly improved. Production is more efficient and with less errors, beacon technology helps with giving clients promotional offerings at the right times, checkouts are easier, and apps make it so that you don’t even need to leave the armchair. Shopping is getting easier and more pleasant, and that’s before AR (augmented reality) shopping becomes mainstream.
New advancements are in development and going live almost daily, such as smart stores that no longer need anyone to work inside. These smart retail solutions allow for entrance and exit with a customer app, purchases are then applied to each member’s shopping cart automatically, and stock orders are automated, without any need to manually check out (as AI technology monitors the shopping experience, orders replacements, and bills the customer before they can leave). With this and drone deliveries, automatic vehicles and more, the world of retail is seeing some major positive disruptions.
None of this would be possible without secure IoT and mobile devices that integrate with cloud management systems. These combine to provide a synergy between devices, departments, and even companies. It allows companies to connect to staff and customers in new ways and to increase efficiency, productivity, profitability, and satisfaction. In most scenarios, the introduction of IoT and mobile devices have also lead to happier staff and customers.