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September 17, 2015

Retail IoT: Liberating or spooky?

As the IoT age delivers ‘meteoric speed of change’ to retail, experts ask if this new era for mankind is liberating or spooky.

By Joao Lima

Retailers must always think about customers and data security when developing their IoT strategy to reach out to new billion dollar revenue streams.

Experts gathered in London at the ‘Retailing to the Customer of One in the IoT Age’ conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities of smarting the retail industry.

In a keynote, David Roth, CEO of The Store WPP in EMEA and Asia, and Joe Jensen, GM for retail solutions at Intel, made clear that IoT is as much daunting as it is an enabler, and that not all will survive this new age.

Jensen said: "Companies that stick to the old way of doing business are losers. Technology shapes consumers’ expectations.

"Many companies will fail. We are all players and there is a very small percentage of companies that will succeed when digitalising."

Securing the IoT spectrum

Taking on security, he added that in the retail space "nobody finances security". "If a CEO goes to the board and asks for money [to secure IoT], the board finds a way to fire him/her."

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For Jensen, the retail sector is now at a stage where it is not the IT department that needs to fight for security, but the brands.

At Intel, Jensen said the company calls security ‘trust’ and "trust is paramount". Trust will be the path the industry needs to focus on to build the ultimate customer experience.

Securing customers’ data is crucial to this, and the industry needs to understand the difference between keeping people’s personal data (such as gender or height) in secrecy and how to use that data to help people make a more informed decision.

"Walking into a shop and having targeted offers is information. We need to do this in a way that protects privacy and trust."

As analytics get more mature, Jensen said, the next step from knowing clients’ data is to automatically select gender specific items, for example. The step after that will be to give specific products to customers based on their data matched with exact sizes and availability.

"The responsive store will know that ‘Jo’ has enough blue jumpers and try to sell a red one instead", Jensen exemplified.

"IoT will enable all sorts of things. Fast data delivers personal retail. It is easy to innovate in retail with technology."

Is IoT ‘liberating or spooky’?

By using this IoT technology, retailers will be able to reach out to a slice of new revenue streams that could reach up to $14 trillion by 2030 worldwide when looking at the IoT across industries.

Roth said the world is going under a "meteoric speed of change" and that "we are at an amazing inflection point in time".

"We lived in the motor world, we came to the chip world, and now we can imagine a world where every single object will be smart and connected. That can be spooky, very liberating or very scaring. We will be living in a chip invisible world."

0.06% of connected things

Addressing the audience over the endless number of things that still remain to be connected, Roth revealed that today, 4.9 billion devices are part of the IoT ecosystem. "Only 0.06% of things that could be connected are connected today."

For the CEO, retailers will be the ones that are going to sieze the power and benefits of this new era for mankind together with brands.

He told the industry that everyone will have to create new and compelling partnerships to take full advantage of IoT.

Roth also reminded those in the room that this will be an "unbelievable challenging journey" and that "the future is not what it used to be".

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