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Why the Retail Industry Needs IoT More Than Ever

Illustration: © IoT For All

While essential businesses have been fortunate enough to continue operating, the coronavirus pandemic has put extra strain on top of an already struggling retail industry.

Even before the virus, the emergence of online shopping threatened the livelihood of business owners. Combined with the pandemic-level impact of the coronavirus, opportunities for business seem bleak.

According to a report by the US Census Bureau, clothing stores, furniture stores, and F&B providers suffered the biggest losses while the food and beverage stores are seeing the biggest rise in monthly sales.

For retailers to continue surviving, technology is no longer a luxury, it’s a need.

In an effort to flatten the curve, governments worldwide put social distancing policies. in place to control the number of customers in retail outlets, such as groceries, pharmacies, fuel stations and banks.

In response, tech companies specialized in people counting are rising to the demand of businesses. Normally used to track visitor counts and measure store performances, these IoT devices have been repurposed to monitor the number of customers in-store at any given moment.

The people counter technology is simple, yet effective. One sensor at each entrance and exit and the device will automatically collect data and inform store managers whenever there is a breach in the. occupancy threshold.

Several of the benefits that come with this technology include:

  • Ensure customer and employee safety when it comes to social distancing
  • Save labor cost by eliminating the need for manual monitoring
  • Add an extra layer of security with an in-built alert system
  • Potential to integrate with other third-party security systems such as LED traffic lights, access gates, or alarm systems using application programming interface (API)

While people counting technology isn’t a new innovation by any means, it has evolved into becoming a necessary IoT device for any retail business.

Apart from the sexy smart home devices, IoT is known for, it’s also revolutionizing the supply chain system. In more ways than others, IoT’s contribution to the retail and manufacturing industry is greater though it might be subtler.

Below are some key aspects of how and why retailers should pay attention to IoT especially during a pandemic:

Delivery

IoT devices attached to the storage container will allow businesses to accurately track the speed and location of the goods, and the time of its arrival, which allows them to:

Integrate this data into their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to update their stocks’ availability.

Predict for their customers when the next batch of goods will be available without them leaving their homes and risking infection. This is particularly important for items in high demand and low quantity such as pharmacies selling medical masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves.

Storage

IoT sensors can monitor every parameter in the storage facility including temperature, humidity, light intensity, and more, which helps:

Optimize their storage situation to save costs and prevent spoilage.

Business owners monitor the quality and prevent reshipments for deliveries. This is particularly important for perishable goods such as raw meats, fish, and vegetables.

Inventory

Automated inventory management technology such as smart shelves coupled with RFID tags can provide retail managements real-time insight into the stock level for SKU, which can save labor costs by avoiding unnecessary inventory checking and prevent any unforeseen stockout particularly during a pandemic lockdown.

Research conducted by Deloitte shows that a staggering 74% of businesses experienced an increase in revenue as well. As a whole, there are more reasons than ever for businesses to integrate IoT technology into their supply chain management. The potential to increase customer satisfaction while preventing revenue losses is a paradigm shift worth the risk at the very least.

Imagine passing around a piece of white paper to a group of random people on a day-to-day basis. A week later, that piece of paper would be lucky if it isn’t torn, creased or stained.

That piece of paper is what we pass it around every time we make a transaction.

Banknotes and coins are notorious for being one of the dirtiest items anyone can hold. Research has found that there are convenient ways to pass viruses and bacterias such as E. coli and salmonella. Speaking of diseases, the COVID-19 virus happens to also survive on surfaces from between a few hours to several days. All it takes for an infected carrier to cough or sneeze around a banknote, and you’ve unknowingly gotten yourself a contaminated piece of paper.

With the pandemic, individuals around the world are paying greater attention to the importance of proper personal hygiene in their daily lives, including their retail experiences. Here’s where technology steps in and gives business owners a helping hand.

Since the ’90s, contactless payment has been popularized in gas stations, public transports, and restaurants. Since then, its application has evolved in 2011 with the introduction of near-field communication(NFC)-enabled payment by Google and Android. Nowadays, the options for contactless payment comes in the form of QR codes, NFC, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

At this stage, the push for contactless payment is more necessary than ever. The ability to make payments while minimizing contact will benefit consumers concerned about health and safety. For businesses, it’ll remove friction during a transaction, increase customer satisfaction, and improve transaction security with fewer fraud losses.

Moving forward, we can also expect the next iteration of contactless payment with its integration with the IoT industry, known as the Internet of Payments (IoP). Here are some examples:

  • Wearables such as Fitbit Pay
  • Automobiles such as GM Marketplace, and Honda Dream Drive
  • Smart furniture such as Samsung Smart Fridge
  • Smart home assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home

The retail industry will always play a vital role in the economy. While the coronavirus has severely impacted its status, the industry will need to continue innovating in order to survive. As for now, the next step forward is the adoption of IoT in different aspects of business, whether that is in the customer-side, or the management-side. Regardless, the incorporation of IoT is no longer an option, but rather a necessity.

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