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April 14, 2016

Re- inventing retail with Internet of Things: engaging with connected consumers to earn their loyalty

Subramanian Hariharan, Senior Director at Mindtree, on how retailers can make gains in efficiency and sales by investing and deploying the correct technologies to build a tailored IoT ecosystem.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Internet of Things (IoT) is breaking the boundaries across industries, disrupting the traditional ways of commerce and business and creating unprecedented opportunity globally. Does it sound too good to be true? Is it just marketing hype like so many other technologies in the past that could only make marginal impact? Like every other industry, it is quite natural that many retailers have the same question in their minds: how can IoT help them re-invent themselves, adapt to the changing marketplace and embrace the new technologies in their business and environment?

Connected Consumer: On the other hand, in today’s world with ubiquitous connectivity, consumers have access to unlimited information when they want it and where they want it and through various channels be it online, offline and social channels. They are becoming infinitely smarter and in turn are changing their well-informed shopping behaviour as well as their demands in terms of speed, agility and personalise interactions.

Smart Retailer: Retailers possess the advantage of having direct access to these consumers on a global scale, which in turn gives them the opportunity to be able gather a wealth of information about their current and potential customers. In order access this information and maximise it, retailers shouldn’t just adopt new technologies, but they should also be strategically investing and driving the emergence of new technologies. A smart retailer would stay ahead of the curve, take advantage of the change and capitalise on the opportunities.

Internet of Things is the transformational opportunity that is already helping the early movers, whether they are existing retails or newcomers to the concept of disruption. IoT is not seen as an independent technology, but as a fabric that connects many day to day things, appliances, machinery, people, location, mobile, sensors, displays etc. to the internet. This enables the gathering of more data at an unprecedented pace and enables seamless flow of this data across multiple channels.

By investing IoT and deploying sensors, beacons, connectivity, big data and analytics platforms, large retailers are harnessing their potential by streamlining their end-to-end business process from manufacturing shop floor to retail shop floor, farm land to fresh produce sections, fashion designer houses to retail outlets. As they become more agile, they ascertain greater insights into consumer buying processes, operations and in turn maximise on their revenue and margins, enabling them to provide real time promotions and personalised consumer experiences.

Personalised Customer Experience using Beacons

Imagine a scenario where a couple drives in to a superstore and there is already a parking space identified and notified on their mobile to drive into. When they step in to the store, personalised offers and coupons get delivered to their mobile phone for their shopping list items. Let say, they had browsed about a particular coffee that they had at a friend’s place a week ago and suddenly get a notification when they pass through that coffee aisle. By embedding sensors and beacons throughout the stores and the customers signing in, retailers will be able to engage with their consumers from the time they enter the store and throughout their shopping experience. In addition, retailers can gather more insights from in-store location and navigation patterns.

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Smart Shelving and Real-Time Replenishments

Imagine a scenario, where a customer had browsed a dress on a retailer’s website and the retailer has now logged this insight. The same customer then walks into the retailer’s outlet that evening to try out the style and size; would it not be a disappointing consumer experience for them find the dress was not available on shelf, but still available in the retailer’s inventory. By connecting RFID, sensors, beacons and connecting the shelves with the back-end store rooms and inventory systems, retailers greatly improve their customer experience, store productivity and avoid the loss of a sale.

Harnessing the Real Potential of Internet of Things

Given the changing and complex scenario, to harness the real potential of IoT, retailers need to look at the holistic picture with a global context in mind and consider the following critical aspects to ensure their strategy is the right one:

i. Define the strategic business outcome expected
ii. Map and define the processes connecting the consumer to the business and everything in between from inventory, supply chain, omnichannels available to the consumer, payments, point of sale and the retail outlet, to name a few
iii. Deploy the right infrastructure for the amount of data anticipated to be captured from the various sensors, beacons, etc.
iv. Build a sophisticated big data and analytics platform
v. Privacy and Security
vi. Automate the right processes for greater business agility and enhanced consumer experiences

Mindtree has been helping global retailers to understand the various Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, apply the concepts in their context, design and build the entire architecture, develop the platform and deploy and actively manage them globally to enhance shopping experiences for consumers and drive up profits for retailers.


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