Retailers are increasingly turning to work process optimization technologies to increase profits and reduce operating costs. One of these cutting-edge technologies is the Internet of Things. By implementing IoT-based solutions, companies can optimize their costs and become more attractive to customers by improving their user experience.

Besides improved process automation and control, smart sensors collect a considerable amount of valuable data, allowing retail chains to assess customer preferences and better plan sales.

This article will look at the benefits of using IoT in Retail and provide practical ways to use smart sensors to solve various tasks.

  • Global Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail Market is projected to reach US$35.5 billion by 2025, increasing from US 14.5 billion in 2020, with the CAGR of 19.6% during the period of 2020 to 2025. — Marketsandmarkets
  • Most companies find IoT effective for supply chain optimization (64%) and inventory management (59%). Less than half of retailers surveyed use it for monitoring and security (48%), loss prevention (44%), or energy optimization (40%).
  • Of all the use cases for IoT in retail, self-checkout and marketing personalization are expected to generate the highest economic value between 2020 and 2030.
  • In a survey of global retailers in late 2021, nearly half of retailers said personalized products and services are or will be the most important area for 5G-based Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
5G enabled IoT technologies
Most important 5G-based IoT applications for retailers worldwide, source: Statista

How Retailers Can Benefit from Integrating IoT Solutions

Retail businesses already have numerous options for using IoT-based technologies, and new approaches, combinations, and non-standard solutions continue to appear.

What is no less important, even small businesses can afford implementing them the same way as large retail chains. If implemented, IoT provides  multiple benefits for retailers and their customers.

  • Personalized recommendations, efficient navigation, and streamlined checkout processes enhance the shopping experience.
  • Real-time tracking and automated restocking help maintain optimal inventory levels, reducing costs.
  • IoT devices manage energy use and predict maintenance needs, saving costs and preventing breakdowns.
  • Customer behavior analytics and real-time feedback provide valuable insights for business improvement.
  • Enhanced security — theft prevention and access control secure the store and sensitive areas.
  • IoT enables contactless payment and pickup options, reducing wait times and improving customer safety, which is especially valuable in post-pandemic retail environments.

Connected IoT devices, along with smartphones, mobile apps, social media, and other channels, provide a complete understanding of what customers like or dislike, what they were looking for, and what they ended up buying.

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10 Practical Applications for IoT in Retail Industry

There are many different scenarios of IoT application in the retail industry, which can be divided into different groups depending on the object of automation and other criteria. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular practical uses of this technology.

Automated checkout systems

Automated cash register systems allowing customers to bypass cash registers and buy merchandise right on the spot, simplify shopping, and improve customer experience.

Cash registers with the Internet of Things ensure seamless payment processes, shorten waiting time, and increase customer loyalty. This type of automation reduces staffing costs and encourages customers to return to the retail spot again.

Energy management

IoT adoption allows retailers to make their businesses cost-effective and more profitable through intelligent energy consumption and distribution. For instance, smart lighting networks can operate at their full capacity during peak hours and go down automatically when no customers are in the store.

Besides, such an intelligent network can provide weekly, monthly, or even yearly energy usage reports. This approach allows retail companies to optimize energy consumption and distribution in the short and long term.

IoT energy management and monitoring system
IoT-based Energy Management & Monitoring System Dashboard by Idego, Dribble

Product tracking

IoT sensors and RFID tags can track goods movement from warehouses to stores in real-time, improving supply chain transparency, reducing waste, and ensuring timely resupply.

On the one hand, IoT allows retailers to track goods to their final destination, ensuring that every customer receives their order on time. On the other hand, customers can verify their order status, and that increases their satisfaction and loyalty.

Environmental monitoring

IoT sensors can monitor environmental conditions, ensuring correct and safe temperature and humidity levels necessary for perishable commodities. This feature also allows companies to automatically ensure health and safety regulations important to the environment where people work.

Product temperature monitoring
Intelligence IoT-enabled temperature monitoring, image source: Wiliot

Smart shelves

Equipped with weight sensors and RFID tags, smart shelves can automatically monitor supply levels, detect out-of-stock items, and trigger resupply processes, reducing manual stock management.

Connected smart-shelves in grocery stores
Smart shelving does not only store products, but also knowledge and efficiency

Personalized marketing

IoT devices can collect data about customers’ buying habits and preferences,  allow retailers to send targeted marketing messages, and offer their merchandise to individual customers in brick-and-mortar stores and online.

Tags can send personalized promotions and offers directly to customers’ smartphones when they are close or in the store, increasing customer engagement and widening sales opportunities.

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Key Challenges for Retailers in the Use of IoT Technology

The implementation of IoT technology incurs initial setup costs, recurring operational charges, and possible expenses associated with updating existing systems to support new IoT technologies.

Many retailers are built on old systems (legacy software) that are not necessarily compatible with new IoT technologies. In order to integrate these IoT solutions without disruption to ongoing operations, this must be carefully planned and executed.

When retail expands its IoT networks, it should also ensure that the systems can scale up accordingly. This implies an increase in the number of devices managed as well as the data they produce while making sure that the network infrastructure supports such growth.

Given that a vast amount of consumer data is being collected by IoT devices, it is crucial for retailers to guarantee privacy and protection against breaches if they want to hold these businesses together.

Maintaining an array of IoT devices can be demanding and resource-intensive. Retailers must have technical support structures in place capable of resolving problems when they happen, update device firmwares, and manage the life cycle of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

It’s one thing collecting data; however, using it effectively is another issue altogether. To gather actionable insights from all the information produced by IOTs’ devices, retailers need this capacity.

Final Notes

Technologies play an integral and increasingly important role in the evolution and transformation of the retail industry. Companies operating in this industry are aware of the need to adapt to the digital environment amidst rapidly changing consumer behavior and fierce competition.

The growing need for data analysis, analytics integration, and business demand for affordable solutions (software and hardware) will drive the growth of IoT in retail in the coming years.

SmartTek has several years of experience and deep expertise in developing IoT solutions, so we are ready to help you realize the potential that the latest technologies can bring to increase your business efficiency and performance.

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Yuriy Nayda
Yuriy Nayda CTO, Managing Partner at SmartTek Solutions