The Shopping Mall of Things: A Black Friday in the Life of the IoT

By Special Guest
David Eden, Director of Innovation NextGen/MCoE, Tata Communications
November 23, 2015

While we have seen examples of some high-end retailers closing their doors for good, such as Blockbuster and Borders, brick and mortar retailers have upped their game by using technology to their advantage.

So, in the age of omnichannel retail, how can retailers use the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver the ultimate connected shopping experience and gain an advantage at the most competitive time of year?

Keeping things moving
Accurate supply chain planning relies on data-driven decision making, which is increasingly generated by connected IoT devices. Capturing and analyzing data such as the amount of stock being produced in warehouses, the demand at each outlet, and the time required to get a product from the production line to the shelves, is invaluable for supply chain managers.

By using telematics data collected from vehicles in the distribution fleets, logistics managers can see the location of its cargo and the timing at which it will reach its destination. Furthermore, RFID-enabled sensors on products allow advanced product tracking through every stage of the supply chain, giving supply chain managers a micro and macro view of the situation.

To complete the connected supply chain, in-store IoT connects the front and back of house. Connected customer experiences give the shop floor assistant a live inventory application hosted on a smartphone or tablet. This enables them to tell a customer instantly what stock is available and even send a message to another employee to retrieve the correct item from another location.

At the point of sale, the live inventory is automatically updated when it receives a message from the checkout transaction. Using this system, the inventory of each store, as well as distribution centers, provides a clear picture of what products were selling best, where they are most popular and where supply is needed to meet demand – key information for the supply chain management team. This smarter approach to stock management helps prevent the disappointment of ‘out of stock’ messages online or empty shelves in-store during peak shopping periods such as Black Friday.

Smarter shops, smarter shopping
Location-based mobile marketing is also becoming a powerful tool for retailers. UK-based catalogue retailer, Argos, has an app that tells the customer the stock levels at the store he/she wishes to visit, allowing them to find an alternative store or order online if stocks are depleted.

Meanwhile, BMW Group Research and Technology, together with SAP, is looking to combine the future connected car with high-end retail shopping, enabling retailers to target specific drivers with tailored offerings based on their proximity to local stores.

Marrying the offline and online retail experience, therefore, requires constant communications between stock-rooms, distribution centers, consumers and soon, vehicles.

For this process to provide the seamless interactional experience with retail brands on any channel, at any time, particularly at the busiest time of year, the infrastructure underpinning the IoT, Wi-Fi and mobile messaging ecosystem needs to match the intelligence and sophistication of the systems involved.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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