We all love to go shopping. For many people, to go out and shop is more fun than to buy just what they need. Businesses are spending millions of dollars in establishing magnificent stores to keep attracting more customers, but still, the volume of crowds in physical marketplaces are gradually decreasing because of the e-retailing. So, is it true that physical marketplaces are losing charm to e-retailing? To some extent, yes they are.
But we cannot expect the extinction of physical marketplaces anytime soon. We already have the technology of Internet of Things (IoT) to take the experience of shopping physically to a completely different level.
Physical marketplaces just don’t bring the displeasure that customers often experience online, such as they cannot feel a product when they buy it online, see its actual color or texture, and most importantly, they cannot have its trial before spending their money on it. These are some essential issues that may make customers act nervously when it comes to buying online, particularly expensive products.
Physical stores, on the other hand, are constantly struggling with the same problems whose beating through the use of technology has made online stores popular. Some of them are as follows:
- Lack of customer service experience / impersonalized shopping experience
- Decreased operational efficiency
- Decreased customer loyalty, engagement and awareness
- Long queues on billing counters and crowded POS
- Complex inventory handling and management methods
- Ineffective business promotion and deals / discount offering approaches
- And several circumstantial issues.
But IoT can gear up physical marketplaces to withstand the e-commerce boom and in several instances, provide better customer experience. IoT can help marketplaces to quickly provide smooth in-store experience. Here are the solutions that can help a physical store offer the shopping experience that beats online retailers.
Helping customers easily discover product shelves
Online stores provide pretty easier ways to find a product. All a customer has to do is either to find a product by searching it in the search box or explore categories, sub-categories, and reach it. It hardly takes a minute or less. But the case with a physical store is totally different. And the bigger such a store is, the harder it’s for customers to find a product they need.
IoT-enabled smart shelves powered with ultrasonic sensors can provide real-time status along with location and distance of specific shelves and show the information right in the smartphone of customers through an app.
Efficiently moving merchandise from stock to store
IoT sensors can help store managers to move merchandises quickly to shelves before they are completely emptied. This will help a store keeps continuity in the supply. The inventory and fulfillment department will get notifications and supply goods on time.
Measuring traffic by foot fall keep inventory / fulfillment and other department ready to act
The inventory and fulfillment department in a store can also prepare themselves ready to act up on requirements of moving merchandises if they are able to measure traffic in their store. IoT sensors can help in measuring footfalls or traffic. The data acquired from these sensors can help different departments to act swiftly on various occasions.
Better management of inventory
A retail business requires keeping track of its stock-inventory to keep on fulfilling orders. An inventory system, powered with RFID, Beacon, and IoT, will help a retailer watch the real-time details of its inventories and act accordingly.
Running low-cost immediate marketing campaigns
Customers are always attracted towards a store that provides discounts / offers on purchases. But the actual problem of these stores is that they cannot run such promotional or discount campaigns and spread awareness for them without a huge investment. But IoT can make it happen so cheaply just with the use of iBeacon or Eddystone. These sensors can help retailers run low-cost proximity marketing campaigns and sell to more customers. The notifications can be sent even without an app.
PIR sensors to check the availability of personnel and places
PIR sensors can detect motions of people at particular places. Be it’s the availability of a sales person in a cash counter or a guard at entrance / exist or checking which trial room is free or availability of parking spaces, PIR sensors can help in designing such IoT solutions that make running of several operations easier than ever before.
Controlling accesses and exists
Not only retail stores but several other businesses need controlling accesses. The smart lock technology and IoT can help them control the opening and closing of accesses and exits, without any need of a key.
Remotely monitoring energy consumption and fuel level of DGs
Many businesses have installed sensors to monitor energy consumption and check the fuel level of DG to keep operations running continuously.
Tracking assets or employees
Beacon tags and gateways can also help a store locate and keep track of assets if they are within the retail premise.
IoT sensors can help a store or business monitor important appliances or systems to predict maintenance requirements, do timely maintenance or avoid sudden failure.
Easier payment with self-checkout and NFC based payment methods
Some companies are already running trial-projects that help stores provide self-checkout and NFC based payment features. With them both, customers would no longer need to stand in queues for billing.
Physical stores can have a variety of other solutions for monitoring a workforce & its management, the GPS-enabled tracking of moving merchandises, safety & security, historical-data based greeting of customers upon their arrival at the store, providing details and reviews of products just by scanning the item with a smartphone, 24X7-customer-support and so on.