How the Internet of Things is Impacting Retail


To say the internet is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives is a bit of an understatement. As technology continues to advance it is bound to have a huge impact on every industry, in particular retail. The internet of things is set to impact every aspect of the retail experience with profound consequences expected to become prevalent for consumers and suppliers alike. As with any innovations, the increasing prevalence of the internet of things will bring with it a range of technological opportunities to provide new, exciting experiences.

Retailers working now and in the not too distant future need to have a thorough understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the internet of things. Understanding the implications of these big changes will ensure your business is well placed to profit as the internet of things increasingly comes into prominence.  

What is the internet of things?

Before we look at the possibilities presented by the internet of things, it may be an idea to take a moment to familiarise ourselves with what it actually encompasses. The internet of things basically refers to a network of physical objects that have electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity incorporated into their design. This allows these objects to be part of a network that can gather and store data, as well as send it to other parts of the network. The “things” in the internet of things can be anything as complicated as a heart monitoring implant to something as simple as a refrigerator that has Wi-Fi connectivity.

Home replenishment sensors and technology

The idea of a refrigerator that can monitor how many eggs you have left and automatically order more from your favourite online store may seem like something out of 1984 (the book, not the year), but the truth is this experience may be closer than you think. Home replenishment offers a range of exciting possibilities for consumers who never have to worry about forgetting to pick up laundry detergent to retailers who have exclusive deals to supply these products. A lot will depend on the manner in which home replenishment systems are set up and whether these are automated systems or merely monitors, but there are some exciting possibilities with this technology.

Wearable technology advances

While Google Glass still has a ways to go before it achieves the prevalence of something like a phone or MP3 player, it does provide a range of exciting possibilities for the retail industry, particularly for managers. Google Glass or similar wearable technology could provide accurate, easy to understand, continually evolving data. Managers could identify potential areas of difficulty for their business, understand what’s driving sales, manage workflow and even get a grasp on inventory. These tasks, which normally consume a large part of a manager’s day, can be completed with a glance and many managers would definitely relish the possible efficiencies.

Potential to access huge amounts of consumer data

One of the major implications the internet of things will have on the way business is completed in the retail world will be to do with the potential access it will grant retailers to reams of data and information about consumers. This offers retailers somewhat unprecedented access to the buying habits of consumers and they can considerably alter their offering accordingly. Devices in consumers’ personal internet of things can mine data and offer suggestions for particular retail products based on the outcome of this information.

Wireless sensing and tracking technology

A remarkable amount of time, consideration and money goes into the layout of your local supermarket. Think of what could happen if retailers could implement smartphone and Bluetooth technology to specifically track each consumer’s individual movement and take this to the next level. Retailers would gain an unprecedented insight into the spending habits of consumers and layout their stores accordingly. Wireless technology also offers exciting ways of changing the potential purchasing process as well as the obvious efficiencies that can be expected to be drawn from a more acute monitoring of stock levels and inventory items.

Personalised service for consumers

And it’s not just all swinging in the retailer’s way. The internet of things is set to bring with it a series of advances that will allow users to enjoy a more specified, personalised service. An example of this would be the RFID-enabled wristbands at a Disney Theme Park that provide access, entry to hotel rooms and innovative cash and card-free ways to make payment. Consumers can expect companies to track this data to gain a better understanding on the purchasing trends of specific consumers to ultimately provide a more efficient, highly personalised service.

Creating a wholesome, multi-channel shopping experience

The prevalence of connected devices in our day-to-day lives certainly doesn’t spell the end for traditional bricks and mortar retailers – it actually creates exciting possibilities for companies that are smart enough to offer a multi-channel shopping experience. Retailers can now connect with consumers online through a range of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, allowing consumers to communicate with brands on a personal level and presenting opportunities for canny companies to market their latest offerings organically. Consumers like the option of choosing between going into a physical store, browsing on a computer or using a tablet or smartphone on-the-go, and retailers should take advantage of this.

The internet of things is ultimately going to have a profound effect on the way companies in the retail sector do business in the future and the possibilities it can provide for retailers and consumers should definitely be considered. Increasingly, retailers are looking at the internet of things as less of a threat and more of a glorious opportunity to do some good business.