IoT opportunities, challenges and solutions for the bricks and mortar retail landscape

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This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: IoT opportunities, challenges and solutions for the bricks and mortar retail landscape.

Knud Kegel, VP Product, EMnify explores the expanding opportunities for the Internet of Things (IoT) in retail, and outlines why cellular connectivity is the best choice, helping businesses enjoy the benefits of IoT while avoiding the pitfalls.
 
With a wide range of lucrative retail applications, IoT can be used to improve customer service, optimise operations and reduce the operating costs of physical stores. It also allows senior decision makers to collect and act upon advanced insights captured on the shop floor.


And when it comes to IoT, wherever there’s a connected device, there’s always an opportunity. However, for retailers, there are also some unique challenges. Retail operations can be situated outdoors, indoors, and in mobile environments, or across a mix of all three simultaneously. This is a situation that many IoT connectivity solutions just aren’t suited for.
 
The nature of retail transactions means that customer data is also highly sensitive, and some of the worst IoT security breaches have occurred within the retail industry. Plus, every large retail operation feeds upon vast amounts of data, which demands robust networks to ensure consistent service.
 
To overcome challenges like those above, retailers should consider cellular connectivity. The technology was designed specifically to keep a vast number of devices connected and secure, regardless of where they are deployed.
 
That’s why cellular connectivity is one of the most popular solutions for IoT in the retail industry. And by using global IoT SIM cards, a retailer’s devices have access to secure, encrypted network connections anywhere in the world. Combine that with Cloud Connect or IPSec solutions, and retailers can establish their own VPNs to keep sensitive data safe and secure.

Use cases for IoT in retail

Deploying an IoT infrastructure at retail allows repetitive tasks to be automated, which accelerates performance and reduces costs. It can also simplify data management and ensure its security, as well as detecting irregularities.
 
Enabling in-store traffic analytics, improving inventory management, connecting PoS terminals, and creating new customer experiences with beacons, are just a few of the ways that IoT is solving problems and creating opportunities in retail today.

Valuable in-store traffic analytics

Identifying congestion, optimising store layouts and reducing waiting times are some of the fundamental building blocks of successful brick and mortar retail operations. And IoT techniques can enable retailers to pull back the curtain on all these things.
 
Consumers are already accustomed to being monitored, they know cameras are located throughout stores. It’s not a big leap to introduce IoT sensors, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDaR) strips and blurred vision cameras.
 
These connected devices can detect the number of people queuing in line, allowing retailers to evaluate waiting times for checkouts and take measures to reduce the busiest lines. Sensors can also be used to track the flow of customers through the store, mapping the most common paths and identifying where customers linger, then mapping this data to new merchandising opportunities.

Heavyweight inventory management

No retailer can truly thrive without fully stocked shelves and a smoothly running supply chain. These things are fundamental to retail success. Yet effective inventory management requires continuous coordination, particularly as a retail operation scales up.
 
And to compound the problem, some products need to be stored at specific temperatures, while others may need very specific lighting conditions. With so many different artificially created environments across a retail space, it’s hard to keep a track of all the variables.
 
But when you implement IoT sensors, even the slightest changes can be detected, and employees can be alerted in time to preserve products and prevent waste. These sensors can also monitor the performance of commercial freezers, fridges and ovens to spot maintenance problems before they snowball into costly equipment failures and the loss of inventory.

Power to PoS terminals

Whether customers are using vending machines, self-service checkouts or kiosks, these point of sale systems are a critical component of every retail business. Customers expect the experience to be smooth, simple and secure.
 
An IoT deployment enables retailers to connect these self-service devices to the cloud, and each transaction can send data in real-time, updating inventory information and sales figures. This allows retailers to adjust delivery schedules with vendors when stock is running low, and instantly coordinate with maintenance teams when alerted to any mechanical problems.

Beacons for new customer experiences

Beacons have been around for some time, but they are now becoming an increasingly popular solution for engaging with customers, both inside and outside a store.
 
Using IoT sensors, beacons can transmit app messages directly to a consumer’s phone, relaying deals and information to entice people to enter when they’re nearby. They can also be used to divert their attention toward particular parts of the store, based on what they’ve purchased in the past, as well as tapping into prevailing store traffic via those in-store analytics.

The future of retail IoT is cellular

As IoT developers continue to create new systems that benefit retailers and consumers, make sure you make the most of these technologies by harnessing cellular IoT solutions. That way, you’ll ensure you’re laying secure, reliable foundations to build your business on. Move forward, differentiate your offering, attract more customers, and grow your margins, all aided by the power of IoT.

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