There’s no question that the internet has transformed life as we know it in recent decades. It’s changed the way we work, learn, socialize and approach entertainment.
Internet also changed the way we shop. Indeed, for a time it seemed as if the advent of the internet might well have sounded the death knell for brick-and-mortar retail. The good news is that as pandemic-related shutdowns begin to lift and consumers start to rejoin the world again. They’re increasingly realizing that nothing can quite replace the in-store shopping experience.
Another distinct advantage today’s brick-and-mortar stores have over the past retailers is the internet. And more specifically, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT). But what is the IoT, exactly, and what role might it play in the future of your brick-and-mortar store?
The Ascendancy of IoT
You might not be familiar with the phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT). But chances are you’re very well acquainted with the technology. IoT simply refers to the vast array of internet-connected devices available today.
They can include anything from wearable fitness trackers to hand-held RFID scanners, and they’re revolutionizing the retail industry. Indeed, the IoT has been widely hailed as one of the top technology trends in fashion retail.
IoT devices, simply put, use the internet to communicate with one another. This means that consumers can use IoT devices for an array of purposes. It goes from making contactless in-store purchases to virtually “trying” on garments in colors or sizes not available in the store. They do this by using internet-connected augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies provided either in-store or on the shoppers’ smartphones.
IoT on Enhancing the Customer Experience
We can use IoT to provide an unparalleled customer experience for consumers shopping in-store. For example, when a customer enters your store, you can use the IoT to push promotional alerts customized specifically for them. It is based on factors like their browsing and purchase history.
The goal, ultimately, is to support customers throughout all phases of the customer journey. In addition, enabling customers to learn about products, availability options and discounts that are uniquely curated for them.
This can also streamline the buying process while also promoting customer satisfaction. For instance, if a shopper uses an AR/VR device to virtually sample a garment in sizes or patterns available only for special order, then a purchase button on the device can instantly complete the transaction.
This would include, for example, connecting with the shopper’s financial institution to complete the sale through the use of an electronic wallet or another form of digital payment. In other words, your in-store shoppers will have more opportunities than ever before to sample exactly the product they want and to complete an order in record time, without the hassle of having to wait for the help of a store clerk or customer service agent.
Optimizing the Supply Chain
IoT devices don’t just serve to enhance the customer experience or support the customer journey from interest to purchase completion. The IoT can also help you streamline your operations, enhancing decision-making related to core attributes of your business such as inventory and supply chain management.
For instance, RFID scanners and related IoT devices can help you track sales data in real-time. This all-important internal data can be compared with external data, such as statistics tracking market trends. Once you understand both how your customers are spending their money in your store and what the external market is looking like in general, you will be better able to cultivate your inventories accordingly.
In an era where supply chain disruptions continue to wreak havoc on retailers, the ability to anticipate your customer’s interests early on will help ensure you are well supplied with the products they need and want, even when your nearest rivals are falling short.
And it’s not only in more effective supply chain and inventory management that the revolutionary potential of the IoT shines through. Thanks to wearable technologies as well as the advent of innovative new materials connected to the IoT, you can now offer your customers state-of-the-art products that were once unimaginable in the fashion world. It can include color-changing garments and textiles that can monitor your fitness and vital signs.
Data Privacy and Security Concerns
For all the immense promise that the IoT holds for brick-and-mortar retailers, however, the story isn’t entirely rosy. Consumers continue to express significant concerns over data privacy and security issues.
This means that large segments of your target market may be willing to sacrifice some of the convenience offered by the IoT in order to protect their personal information. Thus, as a retailer, it is incumbent on you to understand your customers’ needs. As well as their concerns, and to design your business practices accordingly. This may include, for example, providing customers with the opportunity to opt-out when it comes to data collection, or to forgo the use of some IoT technologies in favor of a more traditional shopping experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may well be the future of brick-and-mortar retail. It promises to revolutionize the customer experience while at the same time maximizing retailers’ business processes. Nevertheless, retailers must be cognizant of consumers’ anxieties regarding their personal data. Also, ensuring that all IoT technologies that we use must be in a responsible manner. As well as with the customer’s best interests in mind.
Like this article? Then you must watch this panel: Fashion Is Integrating Metaverse, NFTs & The Future of The Industry.
* Written by Frankie Wallace
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Fashinnovation’s columnists are their own, not those of Fashinnovation.